THE DANGER OF MOB RULE
I have written several articles on postings related to politics. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these political events.
“I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs, form the everyday news of the times.”
Now those aren’t my words. Those are the words of a young Abraham Lincoln. But sadly, they ring with truth today. In recent weeks, violent mobs have roamed our streets, defacing and tearing down statues and monuments, in most cases with neither resistance from the police nor legal consequences.
On Friday, a mob tore down another statue just a few blocks from here. The police stood idly by and watched as rioters toppled it and set it on fire. One can only assume they were ordered not to intervene by Washington’s left-wing mayor. But here’s the thing: steps were already underway to move that statue lawfully; Washington’s delegate in Congress had legislation to that effect. But mobs don’t care to negotiate, only to destroy.
The delegate said, “I have no doubt I could have gotten that bill through, but the people got here before due process.” It’s hard to imagine a more chilling summation of mob rule.
As Lincoln knew, the mob threatens not just old statues, but the lives and livelihoods of us all. Indeed, the mob threatens civilization itself in many ways.
Most simply, Lincoln knew that mobs inevitably make mistakes and commit injustices. Some may celebrate the destruction of disfavored statues and monuments.
But what of the vandals in Boston who defaced a monument to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment—the first African-American regiment to fight for the Union? Whose bravery and skill were immortalized in the movie Glory. And what of the outlaws in Philadelphia who defaced a statue of Matthias Baldwin, a devout, passionate abolitionist? Mobs don’t discriminate between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” targets of their destruction. That’s because they are mobs.
Lincoln also warned that the “lawless in spirit” will become “lawless in practice” because of mob violence, seeing no consequences for crimes.
The mob doesn’t stop at statues. Rioters have already torched police precincts and low-income housing in Minneapolis. Churches and synagogues have been vandalized. Next, perhaps, the mob will target the homes of police officers. And soon enough, the mob may come for you, and your home, and your family.
And as the mob expands its power, Lincoln cautioned that good citizens, “seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a Government that offers them no protection.” Mob rule can only serve to demoralize our people and shake their faith in our government and our way of life. As the mob rises, civilization recedes.
Finally, Lincoln observed that “by operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed—I mean the attachment of the People.” The final victim of mob rule is the very spirit of civic-minded patriotism that’s necessary to preserve our republic.
And for all these reasons, Lincoln said, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” We cannot tolerate mob rule and we cannot allow it to go unpunished.
While local authorities would usually take the lead in prosecuting these crimes, unfortunately many of them seem unwilling to stand up to the mob and uphold the rule of the law. Therefore, I call upon the Department of Justice to bring charges against these mob vigilantes, prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.
The Anti-Riot Act and the Veterans Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act can provide legal grounds in some cases. Still other federal statutes may govern in other cases. But there must be consequences for mob violence. Because if you give the mob an inch, it’ll take a mile.
Witness the events of just this past weekend, where mobs tore down statues of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant. When you tear down statues of Washington and Grant, it’s not about the Civil War—it’s because you hate America.
And indeed, these rioters hate America. In Portland, where they tore down the statue of Washington, they also spray-painted on him the date “1619”—a reference to the New York Times’s revisionist anti-American history project. Perhaps we should call them the “1619 Riots.” After all, the architect of that execrable project said, “it would be an honor.”
This hatred for America was nowhere on greater display than San Francisco, where the mob tore down the statue of Grant. That would be U.S. Grant, commander of the Union Army whose very initials embodied his tenacious, unrelenting approach to war: “unconditional surrender.”
That would also be President Grant, the political heir of Abraham Lincoln, a statesman who smashed the first Ku Klux Klan, signed the first major civil-rights legislation, and presided over passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. In one famous instance, President Grant sent in the troops to disperse a white mob in New Orleans that was terrorizing the city’s black and Republican residents, and had deposed the state’s lawful governor.
Grant had zero tolerance for mob rule. He said “neither Ku Klux Klans, White Leagues, nor any other association using arms and violence to execute their unlawful purposes can be permitted in that way to govern any part of this country.”
This was a man whom the great Frederick Douglass eulogized as “too broad for prejudice, too humane to despise the humblest, too great to be small at any point.” Yet the mob still came for Grant.
Some people have been asking, where is the line? I say, this is the line—the line between mob rule and the rule of law. And since I began by quoting Lincoln, I’ll conclude by borrowing from Grant, who wrote during the Battle of Spotsylvania: “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”
And I’ll fight it out on this line if it takes a lot longer than that.
AMERICA IS LIVING JAMES MADISON’S NIGHTMARE
The Founders designed a government that would resist mob rule. They didn’t anticipate how strong the mob could become.
James Madison traveled to Philadelphia in 1787 with Athens on his mind. He had spent the year before the Constitutional Convention reading two trunk fulls of books on the history of failed democracies, sent to him from Paris by Thomas Jefferson. Madison was determined, in drafting the Constitution, to avoid the fate of those “ancient and modern confederacies,” which he believed had succumbed to rule by demagogues and mobs.
Madison’s reading convinced him that direct democracies—such as the assembly in Athens, where 6,000 citizens were required for a quorum—unleashed populist passions that overcame the cool, deliberative reason prized above all by Enlightenment thinkers. “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason,” he argued in The Federalist Papers, the essays he wrote (along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay) to build support for the ratification of the Constitution. “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”
Madison and Hamilton believed that Athenian citizens had been swayed by crude and ambitious politicians who had played on their emotions. The demagogue Cleon was said to have seduced the assembly into being more hawkish toward Athens’s opponents in the Peloponnesian War, and even the reformer Solon canceled debts and debased the currency. In Madison’s view, history seemed to be repeating itself in America. After the Revolutionary War, he had observed in Massachusetts “a rage for paper money, for abolition of debts, for an equal division of property.” That populist rage had led to Shays’s Rebellion, which pitted a band of debtors against their creditors.
Madison referred to impetuous mobs as factions, which he defined in “Federalist No. 10” as a group “united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Factions arise, he believed, when public opinion forms and spreads quickly. But they can dissolve if the public is given time and space to consider long-term interests rather than short-term gratification.
To prevent factions from distorting public policy and threatening liberty, Madison resolved to exclude the people from a direct role in government. “A pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction,” Madison wrote in “Federalist No. 10.” The Framers designed the American constitutional system not as a direct democracy but as a representative republic, where enlightened delegates of the people would serve the public good. They also built into the Constitution a series of cooling mechanisms intended to inhibit the formulation of passionate factions, to ensure that reasonable majorities would prevail.from the atlantic archives
The Present Status of Civil Service Reform
by Theodore Roosevelt
“The government cannot endure permanently if administered on a spoils basis. If this form of corruption is permitted and encouraged, other forms of corruption will inevitably follow in its train. When a department at Washington, or at a state capitol, or in the city hall in some big town is thronged with place-hunters and office-mongers who seek and dispense patronage from considerations of personal and party greed, the tone of public life is necessarily so lowered that the bribe-taker and the bribe-giver, the blackmailer and the corruptionist, find their places ready prepared for them.”
The people would directly elect the members of the House of Representatives, but the popular passions of the House would cool in the “Senatorial saucer,” as George Washington purportedly called it: The Senate would comprise natural aristocrats chosen by state legislators rather than elected by the people. And rather than directly electing the chief executive, the people would vote for wise electors—that is, propertied white men—who would ultimately choose a president of the highest character and most discerning judgment. The separation of powers, meanwhile, would prevent any one branch of government from acquiring too much authority. The further division of power between the federal and state governments would ensure that none of the three branches of government could claim that it alone represented the people.
According to classical theory, republics could exist only in relatively small territories, where citizens knew one another personally and could assemble face-to-face. Plato would have capped the number of citizens capable of self-government at 5,040. Madison, however, thought Plato’s small-republic thesis was wrong. He believed that the ease of communication in small republics was precisely what had allowed hastily formed majorities to oppress minorities. “Extend the sphere” of a territory, Madison wrote, “and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.” Madison predicted that America’s vast geography and large population would prevent passionate mobs from mobilizing. Their dangerous energy would burn out before it could inflame others.
Of course, at the time of the country’s founding, new media technologies, including what Madison called “a circulation of newspapers through the entire body of the people,” were already closing the communication gaps among the dispersed citizens of America. The popular press of the 18th and early 19th centuries was highly partisan—the National Gazette, where Madison himself published his thoughts on the media, was, since its founding in 1791, an organ of the Democratic-Republican Party and often viciously attacked the Federalists.
But newspapers of the time were also platforms for elites to make thoughtful arguments at length, and Madison believed that the enlightened journalists he called the “literati” would ultimately promote the “commerce of ideas.” He had faith that citizens would take the time to read complicated arguments (including the essays that became The Federalist Papers), allowing levelheaded reason to spread slowly across the new republic.
James Madison died at Montpelier, his Virginia estate, in 1836, one of the few Founding Fathers to survive into the democratic age of Andrew Jackson. Madison supported Jackson’s efforts to preserve the Union against nullification efforts in the South but was alarmed by his populist appeal in the West. What would Madison make of American democracy today, an era in which Jacksonian populism looks restrained by comparison? Madison’s worst fears of mob rule have been realized—and the cooling mechanisms he designed to slow down the formation of impetuous majorities have broken.
Mob Rule Comes to America
Since President Trump’s election, we have been bombarded nearly daily by mobs of “Resisters” seeking to overturn the last election through verbal and physical assaults against supporters of President Trump. The assaults have been waged not only against the everyday men and women who voted for our president, but against Republican legislators and conservatives in theaters; in restaurants; at sporting events (where Congressman Steve Scalia nearly lost his life); and, as we recently observed, in the very chambers of government. Taking their cue from “Auntie Maxine” (Maxine Waters), who has urged her supporters to harass, hound, and confront their opponents wherever Republicans can be found, it is time for Republicans and conservatives to address and confront the descent into mob rule.
Senator Jeff Flake’s confrontation in an elevator by two George Soros-funded hysterical women with cameras set up to film their shameful assault achieved exactly the impact the perpetrators desired. Anna Marie Archilla of the Soros-funded Center for Popular Democracy held the elevator door open while twenty-five-year-old Marie Gallagher hysterically screamed at the senator. Shortly thereafter, Flake returned to the Senate floor and called for the postponement of a vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation on an allegation that had no merit. Triumphant Democratic Senate Judiciary members could be seen gleefully congratulating each other and exchanging high fives. What the left understands and Republicans have not learned is that shame and fear, when employed as tactics, work.
While mob rule and street justice have been evident throughout the Third World, we in America prided ourselves on a judicial system of law and order. We were a country of laws and not of men. As multiculturalism within the last few decades became a celebrated ideology, a demographic shift caused by third-world immigrants and aliens began to uproot our cultural heritage rooted in Western civilization. Saul Alinsky’s Marxist playbook encouraged the left to take to the streets in the name of social justice, and suddenly, the left had new arrivals whose political framework was derived and shaped in countries without the rule of law.
For the last few decades, we have witnessed them taking to the streets to demand equality and racial and social justice throughout cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Baltimore along with violent rallies at Berkeley and dozens of college campuses. Since the election of President Trump, whom they view as illegitimate, they have united together under what they term “The Resistance” to destroy not only the president, but his agenda and all who support him. Whether it be immigration, executive orders, foreign policy, our economy, or judicial nominations, they block his every move to prevent him from governing.
Since the left has not been able to advance its agenda at the ballot box, its followers rely on activist judges in black robes to advance their radical agenda. It was a process that worked well for them under Clinton and Obama, but now, without Congress or the Executive Branch and with the possible loss of the Supreme Court, they see their grasp on power slipping away, and they have become unhinged. They have openly stated they will stop at nothing in their effort to remove a duly elected president. In an effort to hang on to power, they are now employing mob rule and character assassination in the halls of Congress, as we witnessed during last week’s congressional hearing.
Character assassination is a ploy often used by Democrats in the past, as we saw with the attacks on Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Robert Bork. Now that they are desperate to hang on to power, it is being used against a judicial nominee whom they could not discredit in the vetting process and one who claims he has had no contact with the alleged victim. There should be hell to pay for those who destroy a man’s life and family with unsubstantiated, meritless allegations in their quest for political power. Who among good men will want to run for office knowing that a leftist Democratic hit squad is lying in wait? The damage to our judiciary by the Democrats is enormous.
Thus, it is not enough to denounce the thugs. George Soros, the billionaire funding the assaults and attacks, must be brought to justice for not only inciting violence, not to mention investigated for sedition, a crime we need to begin to take seriously. He and his minions are obstructing the agenda we voted on and one we won. It is imperative that Republicans in office begin to use the term “sedition” in public.
Those who plot the overthrow of the United States as a constitutional republic for a one-world order, as Soros has openly advocated, can no longer be ignored. He and his marching minions must be prosecuted for funding a war waged against our republic, and let it be a warning that we will no longer sit idly by as we watch our country destroyed from within.
During November’s midterm elections, we can elect new leaders who will stand up for the rule of law and vote out those whose actions support the left. Let it be a litmus test for those running for office. If they refuse to restore the rule of law, they don’t deserve our vote. It is past high time for conservatives and Republicans to fight back. There was only one valorous senator fighting for Judge Kavanaugh. We need many more Lindsey Grahams if we are to remain a country of laws; otherwise, we will descend into a country of mob rule. The choice is ours!
The United States Of America Is Being Hijacked And Invaded By Communist Agents And Violent Mob Rule
“When Legislature Is Corrupted, The People Are Undone.”
– John Adams
For those that know their history of the formation of the United States, the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770, six years before the revolution, in a riot by a mob in which British soldiers opened fire, which was initially claimed as a brutal assault by the tyrannical British, but when the evidence was produced, John Adams (later became the second president of the United States) defended the soldiers in court, exposing the fact that stones were thrown at the soldiers and they were trying to defend themselves from the mob. Five died in the incident which was a major media story just as it is today in Baltimore; however, today, the local government establishment in Baltimore is siding with the mob instead of the institutions of justice, which is tragic for the present and future of our country. Our country is rapidly moving to mimic the corrupt governments of Africa where populous rebel rousing by the institutions of government along with rampant corruption instead of upholding the law of constitutional statutes.
“Liberty Cannot Be Preserved Without A General Knowledge Among The People.”
– John Adams
It is blatantly obvious America has been hijacked by communist agitators trying to hide as liberal democrats and using the mob and black poverty which has created by decades of lousy policies of political corruption and wasted opportunities. When failure is apparent they blame Republicans or Conservatives. The sad situation is that there are still too many Americans that are not knowledgeable or engaged enough to understand what is happening.
The Baltimore mayor and her Attorney General have taken upon themselves to play to the mob than to the appropriate wheels of justice. This is a dangerous precedent which flies in the face of the basic freedoms our country. The police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray have been rail roaded, bypassing the grand jury system for the purpose of the Mayor’s own biased political motives.
This is deeply troubling for the freedom we cherish. The black liberal establishment has now decided to subvert justice and to attempt to enslave us in way that they were during their tragedy of slavery. They choose to impose both poverty and dependence with policies that have failed over and over. This enhances continual poverty passed on from generation to generation. Rather than fix the problems with proven policies that work in states like Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Florida, and South Carolina (Republican controlled), which has given more opportunity to all citizens of their respective states as well as brought fiscal sanity. Having welfare recipients receiving $300 a week as an income along with a part-time job as a drug dealer is indirectly why Freddie Gray died. While his death is a tragedy and the real circumstances of his death have yet to be established, the one real fact is he was one of those welfare recipients and a notorious drug dealer with a long criminal record. There is no doubt that he was a victim of Democrat polices that have enhanced the power of poverty politics which is keep them poor, keep them victims, give them a few bucks and tell them that if they dare vote for those evil conservatives they will take away their welfare. Sadly this type of propaganda works for two reasons, the Democrats are good at propaganda and the second reason is that Republicans are lousy at getting their message out in Democrat strongholds, or they just do not bother.
We have watched the Ferguson riots, and now the Baltimore riots. Justice is meant to blind, but when black liberal Democrats are the arbiters of our justice system, it seems they continually play the race card. In reality, they are no better than the white supremacist racists that predominated the very party they now seem to control. So we have gone from white racism in the Democrat party to black racism against whites—it is ironic, but that is what we have seen in the last six years of the Obama administration. There is your “Hope and Change.”
With still twenty months left of the Obama administration and the prospect of a potential presidency bought and paid for by the Muslim brotherhood and special interests, i.e. Hilary Clinton, it will be the last chance to save America from its deep decline as a beacon of freedom and the strength of the Judea Christian world. It is imperative we elect a leader who can unite our country and bring us policies of strength and opportunity.
John Adams was a strong opponent of the British, but he was a man of deep integrity. His heart was with the mob, but the facts and evidence were with the innocence of the British soldiers. Despite his dislike for British rule, he defended his clients and acquired their acquittal, yet the political leaders of Baltimore have chosen to side with the mob and bypass the Grand jury because the facts of the case would obviously not warrant a full court hearing, which would not be politically favorable to the mob. The Black liberal establishment might as well be the mob, and your President, along with his administration, are also people of mob rule—that is where America is today.
Statue Toppling Is Bringing Mob Rule to America
Mobocracy is coming to America.
A debate over policing, race, and history has degenerated into general lawlessness, as mobs have swarmed and destroyed statues in our biggest cities from coast to coast.
And these mobs have hardly been discriminating.
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All in the name of purging, in the words of many activists, “systematic racism,” and various other sins inherent in our country’s past, present, and future.
Unfortunately, this sort of mob justice is unlikely to bring us to a kind of post-racial utopia, a heaven on earth. More likely it will bring us straight to perdition, where free government disintegrates and we become a nation of men and mobs, not the law.
Mobs Fueled by Hatred of America
As I wrote in my book “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past,” this slippery slope of statue toppling was a natural progression for those who believe that American and Western civilization are built on nothing but malignancy.
The movement was supercharged by the now Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project,” which is finding its way into K-12 curriculum around the country.
Slavery and racism, according to the 1619 Project’s carefully constructed narrative, were at the heart of America, not liberty and the principles of 1776.
In an interesting way, the 1619 Project embraced the Confederate view of America. It constructed the argument that America is a country built on the cornerstone of slavery, rather than Abraham Lincoln or Frederick Douglass’ view that America was conceived in liberty, but existed alongside an institution deeply at odds with the basis of its creation.
Unsurprisingly enough, Lincoln and Douglass barely make an appearance in the 1619 Project’s essays.
One way or another, what has transpired in recent days has become worse than simple denunciations of statues and figures of America’s past.
When a statue of George Washington was lit on fire and toppled by a mob in Portland, “1619” was scrawled across it. After all, if our nation was founded on the evils of racism and slavery, what respect should we show to the father of our country?
Indeed, the ethos of the 1619 Project is being used to animate mob violence and destruction in this country. That may be exactly what the project’s leaders wanted: The creator of the 1619 Project, The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, tweeted (and then later deleted) “it would be an honor” in response to a New York Post op-ed by Claremont Institute’s Charles Kesler calling the riots of late the “1619 riots.”
Why Is No One Stopping the Mob?
As we saw on Father’s Day weekend, in cities across America, lawless vandals are defacing and pulling down statues, destroying public property, often as police and authorities essentially stand down and watch.
Regardless of what one thinks of any particular statue in this country, a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people requires deliberation in a public process for any kind of removal to take place.
Now, the few dictate to the many, with force, what statues stay up and which come down. Most simply come down.
In addition, politicians have seemingly been eager to meet the demands of this movement, and the whims of the mob, by jumping ahead and removing statues and the names of historical figures, often with little legal justification.
This is mob rule, pure and simple, and it’s what our system is devolving into in cities around the country, as Matt Mehan, the director of academic programs at the Kirby Center, deftly explained in a thread well worth reading on Twitter.
Mob rule is the path through anarchy to tyranny.
Time to Heed Lincoln’s Warning
Nobody explained better how this sort of law would lead to the end of free government in America than Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln denounced mob rule as a young man in his famed Lyceum Address to citizens of Springfield, Illinois, in 1838. It is one of the most important speeches he ever delivered and a dire warning for us today.
First, Lincoln explained how the United States possessed enormous geographical and material advantages compared to almost anywhere on earth.
On top of that, and more importantly, Americans had inherited from the founding generation “a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us.”
That was true in Lincoln’s time and it’s true in ours.
Lincoln then famously said to his countrymen that America, even in that early stage of development—surely a far weaker international power than it is today—could not be conquered by foes from without.
So what, Lincoln asked, could threaten such a country, from where will danger approach?
“I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide,” Lincoln said.
He then explained how he was now seeing an “ill omen” for his country’s future as “mob law” was exploding across America.
Lawless destruction and violence was becoming common. Americans had been targeted for violence, often for petty offenses (real or imagined), and sometimes for the color of their skin. But eventually lawless violence came to all, white and black, men and women, young and old.
Lincoln explained that if this general state of lawlessness is allowed to go on, where perpetrators who violate the law go unpunished and are generally unrestrained by the rightful authorities, it will create a chilling effect for law-abiding citizens who will lose faith in their government to protect them.
Lincoln said of where this all ends:
Good men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed.
It is imperative for Americans, and especially our leaders, to heed these words of Lincoln and put a stop to the anarchy that threatens to submerge our constitutional system.
Mob Rule Imperils Western Civilization. Now’s the Time for Courage and Leadership.
The war on history has spread across our country and has even spilled over to other parts of the Western world.
Now, on a daily basis, we see scenes of lawless mobs attacking and tearing down statues, and defacing monuments of every type—often as authorities stand idly by.
But this violence has hardly been reserved just for statues.
After toppling a statue of an abolitionist who gave his life to the cause as a member of the Union Army, a mob in Madison, Wisconsin, mercilessly beat a Wisconsin Democrat state senator who supported the protests.
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Mob rule is indeed coming to America. It must be stopped.
Authorities have numerous tools to stop the destruction if they would just show the willingness to use them. Failure to act will only encourage more acts of vandalism and destruction.
As I explained in my book, “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past,” the attacks on our shared history go beyond any individual or statue.
What’s in peril now is not just the reputation of Christopher Columbus, the merits of the Founding Fathers, or the legacy of the Civil War. It’s something much broader and deeper.
What’s being threatened is the long history of ideas and institutions created and developed in the West.
The United States, of course, has been the prime target of radicals, because—whether we chose this role or not—it is the pinnacle of Western prosperity and strength.
Unfortunately, we have reached a point—due to the radical transformation of our schools and the rise of the new Left—where our elite institutions are no longer willing or able to defend the very ideas and people that made possible their existence.
In fact, those institutions are leading the charge to bring about this cultural revolution.
Those who do stand up to the statue topplers and radicals—even those who could be broadly defined as “liberal” or on the left—will be drowned out and castigated, will be accused of being racist, and purged by the inquisitors of social justice.
Just look at how the historians who stood up against the inaccurate, flawed, and ultimately destructive “1619 Project” developed by The New York Times have been treated.
The project’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, dismissed her critics as “old white males,” and called others “anti-black.”
The purge and erasure of history require dissent to be silenced. No one may question the narrative. No one may be allowed to freely pursue the truth.
That’s what the war on history is leading to. It’s a war on 1776.
It’s telling that those were among the primary symbols being targeted.
After all, Churchill and Lincoln in their own ways were leaders who unabashedly stood by the essence of what their countries were in a time of almost overwhelming crisis.
Instead of tearing down Lincoln and Churchill, we must now look to them for inspiration in an uncertain age.
In an address at Bristol University in 1938, the British prime minister-to-be warned that civilization itself was under attack, that it would be tested, and that it would survive only if free people drew on their strength and courage to defend it.
In words striking in the face of our challenges today, Churchill said: “Civilization will not last, freedom will not survive, peace will not be kept, unless a very large majority of mankind unite together to defend them and show themselves possessed of a constabulary power before which barbaric and atavistic forces will stand in awe.”
Will we, like generations before us, answer the call to defend our way of life? Will it be the generation that grew up at the “end of history”—after the Nazi menace was crushed by the arsenal of democracy, the USSR’s evil empire collapsed, and free people stood triumphant—that will cast our hard-won victories aside in an effort to purge our imperfect past?
In an era of mob rule—where the very basis of American and Western civilization is being questioned and attacked from within, and when rising superpowers like communist China that stand in opposition to everything we represent are on the march—it is essential that free people resist the impulses leading to our self-immolation.
The hour is late, and our hot summer days are becoming dark.
Still, imagine what things were like for Lincoln sitting in the White House in 1861 as government of the people, by the people, and for the people appeared to be on the precipice of perishing from the earth.
Imagine how things must have looked for Churchill in the summer of 1940, when darkness was closing in on the last free country on the Continent, the British elite were eyeing capitulation to the Nazi juggernaut, and across the Atlantic the American behemoth was still sleeping.
The times were grim, but leadership and statesmanship in the face of nearly insurmountable challenges held civilization together, allowed free people to rally, gather their strength, and stem the tide of ruin, bringing forth what Churchill called the “bright sunlit uplands” in the era that followed.
Now we are again being called upon to mount a defense of our way of life. We have a great deal to lose and much at stake, because what’s at stake are not just statues and stone, but the freedom of millions alive today and the many more yet unborn.
America Is Not A Democracy, And We Don’t Want It To Be
It is widely assumed today that the government’s most fundamental duty is to cater to the whims of popular opinion. The case for eliminating the Electoral College generally hinges on this misguided idea—that some form of national popular vote would better reflect the will of the country.
Leftist website MoveOn.org implores, “Hold presidential elections based on popular vote. One person one vote to determine the one leader who is supposed to answer to all the people of the country.” Hillary Clinton expressed on CNN, “I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president.”
Similarly, the movement to “pack” the Supreme Court typically grounds its argument on the opinion that it would allow for government to conform more to popular demand: “It might sound drastic … But it [court packing] would help reverse something even more threatening to democracy: indefinite minority rule,” lectures one professor.
“Court-packing is bad, but allowing an entrenched majority on the Supreme Court to represent a minority party that refuses to let Democratic governments govern would not be acceptable or democratically legitimate, either,” warns the New Republic.
The idea of a national referendum whereby voters nationwide would have the right to vote directly on key issues has gained in popularity due to angst over perceived government gridlock. The pervasive attitude today suggests that government ought to bend more readily to the will of the majority. Such thinking, however, is not only shallow and dangerous. It lacks a fundamental understanding of American government.
To be sure, majority rule is a key principle of the U.S. government. It was never intended, however, to be the only principle. Throughout the constitutional convention and ratification debates, our Founders wrestled over how to make government responsive to popular will yet protective of our natural rights. Well-read in political theory and history, they understood that while rule by the people is the best guarantor of freedom, it is wholly insufficient for good government.
Human nature is often impulsive and weak. As such, rule by mere popular demand invites the likelihood of rash, uninformed, and immoderate collective action harmful to both individual rights and the common good. Just as we impose restraints upon personal conduct, the Founders knew we must restrain our collective conduct so we an uncontrolled majority cannot impose its unfettered will. As James Madison explained in Federalist 51:
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
The wisdom of “auxiliary precautions” has been grasped since antiquity. Plato, for example, critiqued radical democracy for putting excessive emphasis on freedom and thus opening itself up to injustice and eventual collapse. Unrestrained freedom, he argued, leads people to overindulge their appetites and act on foolish impulses. Such a state quickly deteriorates into anarchy and mob rule, ultimately betraying the common good. Eventually, this pervasive injustice can open the way for despotism.
As we’ve learned from the outcome of the French Revolution, what began as a democratic Enlightenment project to fulfill the “rights of man” and achieve total equality and freedom culminated in the “common folk” beheading King Louis XVI and vicious mob rule.
Maximilien Robespierre rose to power as a radical democrat who self-identified with the masses and whose pet cause was universal male suffrage. Suspicious of aristocratic elements in society he believed threatened the revolution, Robespierre unleashed horrific levels of violence and destruction during an infamous “Reign of Terror.” Tens of thousands met their fate at the guillotine. Order wasn’t restored until 1799, when Napoleon finally wrested control of the country.
Thankfully, our framers were wiser than their French counterparts were. Drawing upon history from ancient Greece and Rome, John Adams warned posterity to “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.”
Compatriot Benjamin Franklin likewise admonished: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” Thomas Jefferson agreed: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
Due to these well-grounded fears, our Founders prudently crafted a government that combined elements of monarchy (the presidency), aristocracy (the Senate), and democracy (the House), while further dividing power between state and federal governments (federalism). As good government requires checks and balances against the excesses of each type of government—and against human nature itself—they devised a selection process for the president to moderate the passions of the voting populace (the Electoral College). Make no mistake: our government was designed to be a democratic, constitutional republic.
Today, our affinity for democracy grows in proportion to our ignorance of both government and history, worsened by our naivety regarding human nature. Fortunately, however, the shallowness of the notion that government should be more responsive to popular impulse is easily exposed and is enough to invite suspicion toward movements premised on that idea.
Sadly, a superficial understanding of democracy and government is still far too widespread, and it’s a shame that American government must be defended against itself. Abraham Lincoln speculated that should we meet our demise it was likely to emanate from within. Our framers shared that foresight. Asked by a passerby following the constitutional convention what type of government was devised, legend has it that Franklin wisely replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” If, indeed.
How To Recognize A Violent Revolution
With chaos ensuing, many Americans are anxious about the present conditions of the nation. Is a violent revolution imminent? If it is, how can you prepare for it? Read more about it below.
Signs of a Violent Revolution
What is happening in America? Are we on the verge of collapse? There are a lot of voices that agree we are.
The political playing field looks pretty desolate, police efforts look useless and many of us are wondering, what next?
Are we in the throes of a violent revolution in America? Well, let’s look at some of the historical signs and you be the judge.
One of the earliest signs that you are in the midst of what could become a violent revolution is the appearance of mob rule. This is not the same thing as a riot.
Mob rule is what happens when riots and angry mobs become the norm, and their actions affect the society.
When things like monuments come down, it is part of mob rule. We watched this same thing happen in the revolution in China where statues of Buddha were defaced.
One of the hallmarks of the American system is that no matter the crime, there is a proper legal process. Judges examine evidence and the jury makes the conviction. When mob rule and outrage intoxicate a nation, it can quickly bring an end to due process.
This means the national outcry can influence jurors due to intimidation. They might ignore the evidence or make an unfavorable choice.
If people are condemned before due process, that is a dangerous place for a nation to be and a good sign that a violent revolution is taking hold.
When armed revolutionaries show up in peaceful protests, it is one of the surest signs that you are facing the early stages of a violent revolution in your nation. This means the protest cannot take the cause any further and violent action is the next step.
Hypocrisy, almost always, punctuates a violent revolution. It could be in the messaging or in the actions of those revolting.
During the communist revolutions of the 20th century, the message was the distribution of wealth evenly, but there always appeared Czars or Kings amongst the people who amassed great wealth in these times.
Adolf Hitler himself had Jewish ancestry as he stoked the flames of Jewish genocide in his nation.
Targeting by Race, Religion or Socioeconomic Status
Any good revolution needs a target. The clear identification and subjugation of that target are essential in a revolution.
In Cambodia, the targets were the educated and wealthy. In Russia, the farmers, of all people, were the targets of revolutionaries. Back when it was Nazi Germany, a leader with Jewish ancestry called for the genocide of Jews.
Cultural Influence Through Fascism
Any revolution must conquer pop culture to affect the masses. The use of force or perceived force can be used to push culture in the desired direction.
We are living through a remarkably interesting age where we see a movement of digital fascism in which lives can be ruined if people decide to stand against or even not stand with the cause of the day.
While not as clear or as recognizable as a truncheon we are watching
Attacks on 2A
Perhaps the greatest sign of danger when it comes to a violent revolution is when the governing bodies and revolutionary radicals begin to tell the people they no longer need their guns!
While history repeats itself and there is concern about what is happening in our streets, the one major difference in this retelling is that armed people will not be loaded into train cars.
All other groups that faced a violent revolution were disarmed. Keep that in mind as they tell you that you don’t need guns and that the US military protects you.
Prioritize Your Safety First
At the moment we are all measuring where we stand in this new America. The America that emerged from the COVID-19 isolation is something vastly different. Most people are hungry for normalcy while others are trying to figure out how far this iteration of protest and violence will go.
In my humble opinion, we have small pockets of violent revolutionaries in our midst. These seem to be in areas where there is the least amount of focus on law and order.
I recognize almost all these signs in segments of our society today. Without police to keep these groups in check, it is hard to understand why they would simply back down.
Take precautions, prepare, establish cohesion in your neighborhood. Now is the time to act.
When COVID-19 ramps up, the election fires up and the violence reaches a fever pitch you will find yourself stuck where you are and dependent on the things you have.
What is your take on the current situation in America? Do share with us how you are coping in the comments section!
We might dream of a world where there are no rules, but how practical would it be?
We all feel the oppressive presence of rules, both written and unwritten – it’s practically a rule of life. Public spaces, organisations, dinner parties, even relationships and casual conversations are rife with regulations and red tape that seemingly are there to dictate our every move. We rail against rules being an affront to our freedom, and argue that they’re “there to be broken”.
But as a behavioral scientist I believe that it is not really rules, norms and customs in general that are the problem – but the unjustified ones. The tricky and important bit, perhaps, is establishing the difference between the two.
A good place to start is to imagine life in a world without rules. Apart from our bodies following some very strict and complex biological laws, without which we’d all be doomed, the very words I’m writing now follow the rules of English. In Byronic moments of artistic individualism, I might dreamily think of liberating myself from them. But would this new linguistic freedom really do me any good or set my thoughts free?
Some – Lewis Carroll in his poem Jabberwocky, for example – have made a success of a degree of literary anarchy. But on the whole, breaking away from the rules of my language makes me not so much unchained as incoherent.
Byron was a notorious rule breaker in his personal life, but he was also a stickler for rhyme and metre. In his poem, When We Two Parted, for example, Byron writes about forbidden love, a love that broke the rules, but does do so by precisely following some well-established poetic laws. And many would argue it is all the more powerful for it:
In secret we met
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?–
With silence and tears.
Consider, too, how rules are the essence of sport, games and puzzles – even when their entire purpose is supposedly fun. The rules of chess, say, can trigger a tantrum if I want to “castle” to get out of check, but find that they say I can’t; or if I find your pawn getting to my side of the board and turning into a queen, rook, knight or bishop. Similarly, find me a football fan who hasn’t at least once raged against the offside rule.
But chess or football without rules wouldn’t be chess or football – they would be entirely formless and meaningless activities. Indeed, a game with no rules is no game at all.
Lots of the norms of everyday life perform precisely the same function as the rules of games – telling us what “moves” we can, and can’t, make. The conventions of “pleases” and “thank yous” that seem so irksome to young children are indeed arbitrary – but the fact that we have some such conventions, and perhaps critically that we agree what they are, is part of what makes our social interactions run smoothly.
And rules about driving on the left or the right, stopping at red lights, queueing, not littering, picking up our dog’s deposits and so on fall into the same category. They are the building blocks of a harmonious society.
Of course, there has long been an appetite among some people for a less formalised society, a society without government, a world where individual freedom takes precedence: an anarchy.
Rules often arise, unbidden, from the needs of mutually agreeable social and economic interactions
The trouble with anarchy, though, is that it is inherently unstable – humans continually, and spontaneously, generate new rules governing behaviour, communication and economic exchange, and they do so as rapidly as old rules are dismantled.
A few decades ago, the generic pronoun in written language was widely assumed to be male: he/him/his. That rule has, quite rightly, largely been overturned. Yet it has also been replaced – not by an absence of rules, but by a different and broader set of rules governing our use of pronouns.
Or let’s return to the case of sport. A game may start by kicking a pig’s bladder from one end of a village to another, with ill-defined teams, and potentially riotous violence. But it ends up, after a few centuries, with a hugely complex rule book dictating every detail of the game. We even create international governing bodies to oversee them.
The political economist Elinor Ostrom (who shared the Noble Prize for economics in 2009) observed the same phenomenon of spontaneous rule construction when people had collectively to manage common resources such as common land, fisheries, or water for irrigation.
She found that people collectively construct rules about, say, how many cattle a person can graze, where, and when; who gets how much water, and what should be done when the resource is limited; who monitors whom, and which rules resolve disputes. These rules aren’t just invented by rulers and imposed from the top down – instead, they often arise, unbidden, from the needs of mutually agreeable social and economic interactions.
The urge to overturn stifling, unjust or simply downright pointless rules is entirely justified. But without some rules – and some tendency for us to stick to them – society would slide rapidly into pandemonium. Indeed, many social scientists would see our tendency to create, stick to, and enforce rules as the very foundation of social and economic life.
Despite our protests to the contrary, rules seem hardwired into our DNA
Our relationship with rules does seem to be unique to humans. Of course, many animals behave in highly ritualistic ways – for example, the bizarre and complex courtship dances of different species of bird of paradise – but these patterns are wired into their genes, not invented by past generations of birds. And, while humans establish and maintain rules by punishing rule violations, chimpanzees – our closest relatives – do not. Chimps may retaliate when their food is stolen but, crucially, they don’t punish food stealing in general – even if the victim is a close relative.
In humans, rules also take hold early. Experiments show that children, by the age of three, can be taught entirely arbitrary rules for playing a game. Not only that, when a “puppet” (controlled by an experimenter) arrives on the scene and begins to violate the rules, children will criticise the puppet, protesting with comments such as “You are doing that wrong!” They will even attempt to teach the puppet to do better.
Indeed, despite our protests to the contrary, rules seem hardwired into our DNA. In fact, our species’ ability to latch onto, and enforce, arbitrary rules is crucial to our success as a species. If each of us had to justify each rule from scratch (why we drive on the left in some countries, and on the right in others; why we say please and thank you), our minds would grind to a halt. Instead, we are able to learn the hugely complex systems of linguistic and social norms without asking too many questions – we simply absorb “the way we do things round here”.
But we must be careful – for this way tyranny also lies. Humans have a powerful sense of wanting to enforce, sometimes oppressive, patterns of behaviour – correct spelling, no stranded prepositions, no split infinitives, hats off in church, standing for the national anthem – irrespective of their justification. And while the shift from “this is what we all do” to “this is what we all ought to do” is a well-known ethical fallacy, it is deeply embedded in human psychology.
One danger is that rules can develop their own momentum: people can become so fervent about arbitrary rules of dress, dietary restrictions or the proper treatment of the sacred that they may exact the most extreme punishments to maintain them.
Political ideologues and religious fanatics often mete out such retribution – but so do repressive states, bullying bosses and coercive partners: the rules must be obeyed, just because they are the rules.
Rules, like good policing, rely on our consent
Not only that, but criticising rules or failing to enforce them (not to draw attention to a person wearing inappropriate dress, for example) becomes a transgression requiring punishment itself.
And then there’s “rule-creep”: rules just keep being added and extended, so that our individual liberty is increasingly curtailed. Planning restrictions, safety regulations and risk assessments can seem to accumulate endlessly and may extend their reach far beyond any initial intention.
Restrictions on renovating ancient buildings can be so stringent that no renovation is feasible and the buildings collapse; environmental assessments for new woodlands can be so severe that tree planting becomes almost impossible; regulations on drug discovery can be so arduous that a potentially valuable medicine is abandoned. The road to hell is not merely paved with good intentions, but edged with rules enforcing those good intentions, whatever the consequences.
Individuals, and societies, face a continual battle over rules – and we must be cautious about their purpose. So, yes, “standing on the right” on an escalator may speed up everyone’s commute to work – but be careful of conventions that have no obvious benefit to all, and especially those that discriminate, punish and condemn.
Rules, like good policing, rely on our consent. And those that don’t have our consent can become the instruments of tyranny. So perhaps the best advice is mostly to follow rules, but always to ask why.
cotton.senate.gov, “THE DANGER OF MOB RULE.” By Tom Cotton; theatlantic.com, “AMERICA IS LIVING JAMES MADISON’S NIGHTMARE: The Founders designed a government that would resist mob rule. They didn’t anticipate how strong the mob could become.” By Jeffrey Rosen; americanthinker.com, “Mob Rule Comes to America.” By Shari Goodman; dailysignal.com, “Statue Toppling Is Bringing Mob Rule to America.” Jarrett Stepman; thedailysignal.com, “Mob Rule Imperils Western Civilization. Now’s the Time for Courage and Leadership.” By Jarrett Stepman; investortimes.com, “The United States Of America Is Being Hijacked And Invaded By Communist Agents And Violent Mob Rule.” By Freedom Outpost; realclearpolitics.com, “A Timely Message on Mob Rule From Our 16th President.” By Jean M. Yarbrough; thefederalist.com, “America Is Not A Democracy, And We Don’t Want It To Be.” BY: DAVID WEINBERGER; theamericanconservative.com, “How To Destroy A Democracy: There’s more to our form of government than just the right to vote; without virtue in the people and their rulers, a democracy becomes a mob.” By Bradford Tuckfield; survivallife.com, “How To Recognize A Violent Revolution”; bbc.com, “We might dream of a world where there are no rules, but how practical would it be?” By Nick Chater; nytimes.com, “A Shattering Blow to America’s Troubled Democratic Image: The mob in Washington attempting to disrupt the peaceful transition of American power also posed a threat to all democracies.” By Roger Cohen;
A Timely Message on Mob Rule From Our 16th President
Donald Trump is not known for his soaring rhetoric, but his speech at Mount Rushmore was one of the rhetorical highlights of his presidency. In addressing the nation as he enters the home stretch of another presidential campaign, the president would do well to recall the words of Abraham Lincoln, one of the four American presidents chiseled into the South Dakota mountaintop — and the first to be elected on the Republican Party ticket.
In 1838, the 28-eight-year-old Lincoln delivered what would later be considered his first great political speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill. In it, he warned against the dangers of mob violence. In the cases he discussed, vigilante groups had not waited for justice to be done to lawbreakers, but had savagely murdered the men (most of them black) accused of committing the crimes. Here were two explosive issues, mob violence and race, that together threatened the preservation of our political institutions.
The foundational problem with mob rule, as Lincoln saw it, was that it alienates decent, law-abiding citizens from their government. When “good men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed, their families insulted; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offers them no protection,” Lincoln warned.
The United States, he asserted, was far more likely to “die by suicide” than by foreign conquest.
Today, the same toxic mix again threatens the survival of our political institutions, and more broadly, our American way of life. But the two situations are largely reversed, with Black Lives Matter (along with their white “antifa” allies) pillaging and destroying some of America’s great cities and threatening to bring their violence to a town or suburb near you. As Attorney General William Barr observed while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, not one Democratic member of the committee was prepared to denounce what Lincoln called “the mobocratic spirit,” despite the graphic nine-minute video he showed at the opening of his testimony. The mainstream media has largely covered up the violence and lawlessness, while liberal politicians have doubled down on the problem by supporting proposals to defund the police.
The tactic of willfully ignoring mayhem played itself out in Kenosha, Wis., which the president is visiting Tuesday, and Joe Biden was finally roused to address the topic. He did so only after a Republican convention that featured an array of Americans of all ages and hues signaling that their nominee will run on a platform of restoring law and order as best he can in our federal and decentralized republic, in which the worst of the violence is taking place in cities and states long controlled by Democrats. But Trump can also follow Lincoln’s advice in the Lyceum Address to make “reverence for the laws” the “political religion of the nation,” starting first in the family, but also “in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges.”
For too long, America’s school children have been fed a steady diet of racism, genocide, and greed, capped off by the New York Times’ ideologically driven 1619 Project. Is it any wonder that our young people are more drawn to socialism, “democratic” or otherwise, when this is all they know? Meanwhile, as Heather Mac Donald has shown, college and university presidents have declared with one voice that they will use every tool in their educational arsenal to fight against “systemic,” “institutional,” and “structural” racism, even as they themselves skirt the law regarding illegal immigration, racial discrimination, and the rights of the accused. Reverence for the law is in short supply in the very citadels of learning where it should be enshrined.
If our 45th president can channel the insights of our 16th president, opposing mob violence and restoring civic education, he will have a winning message.
How To Destroy A Democracy
There’s more to our form of government than just the right to vote; without virtue in the people and their rulers, a democracy becomes a mob.
Jim Gaffigan advocates moderation in consumption of ranch-style salad dressing. In one of his comedy specials, he made fun of people who eat too much of it. “I like to dip my pizza in ranch dressing,” he said, using a mocking tone to imitate a hypothetical ranch fan. “That’s fine,” he continued. “You’re just not allowed to vote anymore.”
Gaffigan is the funniest opponent of universal suffrage, but he’s not the only one. A Forbes article a few years ago declared that “angry old people shouldn’t be allowed to vote.” A British pop star argued that those over 75 shouldn’t be able to vote because they were unlikely to experience the consequences of their vote. Another journalist argued that white people shouldn’t be allowed to vote.https://66e5621a3ff12f5b38063580087ac01c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
These examples are rare and appalling for the same reason that Gaffigan’s joke lands: because democracy is part of our American civic religion and opposing it feels a little like blasphemy. Democracy has been bound up in American history and character from the beginning. We can trace it from the egalitarian Quakers through Tocqueville and Walt Whitman to the suffragettes and all the way to our democracy-building justifications for occupying Iraq and the controversies over voter identification laws and mail-in ballots today.
Our instinctive love of democracy makes us sensitive to any attempt to undermine or destroy it. An Unherd article last year compared sore losers in African elections to President Trump’s statements about his own lost election, calling election irregularity disputes and retribution “the destruction of democracy” and “close to death.” An article in the Nation written early in Trump’s term described the way the Nazis’ strategies to limit the voting power of their opponents to destroy democracy and ominously warned that “we would all do well to heed” this “warning from history.”
The enthusiasm for defending democracy that’s evident in these articles is stirring, but also very narrow. If you look closely, you’ll realize that many impassioned defenders of democracy have only a vague and limited idea of what democracy actually means. Most of our public discussions of democracy center around the numeric definition of democracy that we teach in elementary school: if everyone is safely voting their conscience, then it’s democracy, and if less than everyone is voting, then it’s not democracy.
However, the numeric aspect of democracy—percent measurements of how many people’s opinions are aggregated to determine policy—is not all there is to democracy. The great historian Polybius claimed as much, writing that “it is not enough to constitute a democracy that the whole crowd of citizens should have the right to do whatever they wish or propose.”
Political scientists today may nod along with Polybius, agreeing that more than universal suffrage is required for democracy’s success. There should also be a healthy, free press, an impartial and consistent rule of law, and other legal institutions and practices. But none of these are what Polybius had in mind when he wrote that universal suffrage did not guarantee democracy. Instead, he wrote the following about the minimum requirements for democracy:
Where reverence to the gods, succour of parents, respect to elders, obedience to laws, are traditional and habitual, in such communities, if the will of the majority prevail, we may speak of the form of government as a democracy.
Polybius believed that the definition of democracy had not only a numeric but also a moral or even spiritual component. The raw percent of voters is merely rule by the many. The moral rectitude of the voters was what determined whether rule by the many constituted democracy or its dark brother mob-rule, also called ochlocracy. Nor is this moral component of constitutions limited to rule by the many. Describing other forms of government, Polybius wrote:
We cannot hold every absolute government to be a kingship, but only that which is accepted voluntarily, and is directed by an appeal to reason rather than to fear and force. Nor again is every oligarchy to be regarded as an aristocracy; the latter exists only where the power is wielded by the justest and wisest men selected on their merits.
Polybius viewed the universe of possible constitutions not in the one-dimensional, purely numeric terms with which we often view it today. Instead, he thought of forms of government as varying in two dimensions, the numeric and the moral/spiritual:
|Rule by the good||Rule by the bad|
|Rule by the one||Kingship||Despotism|
|Rule by the few||Aristocracy||Oligarchy|
|Rule by the many||Democracy||Mob-rule|
Polybius’s table of constitutions. Note that constitutions vary on the percent of voters and also their moral and spiritual state.
In our scientific age, we are obsessed with numbers and things that can be easily measured, and so we have focused only on the vertical axis of Polybius's table. We seek to increase the numbers or percent of people who can vote, both at home and abroad, thinking that these numeric increases guarantee that we are building and defending democracy. Meanwhile, we ignore the horizontal axis, and even as we push more people to vote, we nevertheless fail to build democracy because we're powerless to avoid the strong gravity of mob-rule. We rarely remember that there are two ways to destroy a democracy: first by limiting the franchise, and second by corrupting the people—turning them into a mob.
Mob-rule has been a concern for democracy enthusiasts going back many centuries. An Atlantic article described James Madison’s efforts to avoid mob rule, writing that
Madison referred to impetuous mobs as factions…Factions arise, he believed, when public opinion forms and spreads quickly. But they can dissolve if the public is given time and space to consider long-term interests rather than short-term gratification…. The Framers….built into the Constitution a series of cooling mechanisms intended to inhibit the formulation of passionate factions, to ensure that reasonable majorities would prevail.
As a statesman, Madison was limited in the levers he could pull to improve the spiritual state of the people and prevent them from becoming mobs. He and the other Framers couldn’t directly change people’s innermost attitudes; they could only create systems and processes to encourage their best possible behavior. But legal procedures can’t permanently arrest or reverse the corruption of a nation’s people. Maybe Madison knew in his heart that his system wasn’t foolproof: that legal systems can ossify or get corrupted, that cooling mechanisms can become stultifying vetoes, and that wickedness finds a way even in the best of systems.
Polybius knew that the slide towards mob-rule wasn’t merely a result of lacking the right parliamentary procedures. He described the natural course of political decay as follows:
When a commonwealth, after warding off many great dangers, has arrived at a high pitch of prosperity and undisputed power, it is evident that, by the lengthened continuance of great wealth within it, the manner of life of its citizens will become more extravagant…[this] will prove the beginning of a deterioration….when that comes about, in their passionate resentment and acting under the dictates of anger, they will refuse to obey any longer, or to be content with having equal powers with their leaders, but will demand to have all or far the greatest themselves. And when that comes to pass the constitution will receive a new name, which sounds better than any other in the world, liberty or democracy; but, in fact, it will become that worst of all governments, mob-rule.
Prosperity, power, then extravagant living, then moral deterioration, then resentment, then disrespect for the law and entitled demands leading to mob-rule. Reasonable people may differ in their assessment of whether this describes the last several centuries of American history. But if it’s a correct description of the natural course of political decay, then it’s not something that can be stopped by Madisonian legal niceties.
The news doesn’t need to be all bad. If democracy can be destroyed by corrupting a democratic society, then conversely, democracy can be established by improving a mob. But we tend to focus only on the numeric aspect of democracy because none of us can agree on what good and bad even mean: Who is the mob, and how could anyone improve its moral or spiritual state? Polybius mentioned reverence to the gods as a precondition of successful democracy, but today we wouldn’t be able to agree on who those gods were or how we should reverence them. To the extent that we have national discussions about how to ensure that good rather than bad people are running the country, our discussions tend to be shallow and mean, like advocacy of the denial of the franchise to the old or the white. We’ve lost what Roger Scruton called the “pre-political ‘we’,” a shared identity and vision of the good life that allows us to debate without rancor and agree on the most fundamental aims of life and politics.
Thinking about democracy in multiple dimensions can force us to ask some hard questions: Are we the mob? Is rule by a limited but good aristocracy preferable to “democratic” rule by a wicked mob? What is it exactly that makes a ruler morally good, and how do we foster those qualities in the people? Conservatives need to spend more energy taking up the challenge of answering these questions, and less focusing on short-term electoral victories and culture war flash points. Polybius believed that the ideal constitution contained elements of kingship, aristocracy, and democracy fused together. As Americans, we may disagree, since our love of pure democracy runs too deep in our blood. But if we do love democracy and wish to defend it, we should at least understand better what it is and how we can avoid the ever-more-plausible nightmare of being ruled by a mob.
A Shattering Blow to America’s Troubled Democratic Image
The mob in Washington attempting to disrupt the peaceful transition of American power also posed a threat to all democracies.
PARIS — The choreography was unusual: President Emmanuel Macron of France, standing before the Stars and Stripes, declaring in English that “We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.”
And so the presidency of Donald Trump draws to a close with a French leader obliged to declare his faith in the resilience of American democracy, a remarkable development. Mr. Macron’s wider point was clear enough: The mob of Trump loyalists in Washington attempting to disrupt the peaceful transition of American power also posed a threat to all democracies.
The reputation of the United States may be tarnished, but its identification with the global defense of democracy remains singular. So, when an angry horde, incited by President Trump himself, was seen taking over the Capitol, defiling its sacred chambers with swaggering contempt as lawmakers gathered to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, the fragility of freedom felt palpable in Paris and across the world.
“A universal idea — that of ‘one person, one vote’ — is undermined,” Mr. Macron said in an address that began in French and ended in English. It was the “temple of American democracy” that had been attacked.
The institutions of democracy prevailed in the early hours of the following morning, but the images of mob rule in Washington touched a particular nerve in fractured Western societies. They have been confronted with the emergence of an illiberal authoritarian model in Hungary and Poland, and the rise of rightist political forces from Italy to Germany. They have also faced the truculence of leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has declared liberalism “obsolete,” or Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, who has offered his country’s surveillance-state model to the world as he crushed democratic protest in Hong Kong.
“For European societies, these were shattering images,” said Jacques Rupnik, a political scientist. “Even if America was no longer the beacon on a hill, it was still the pillar that sustained European democracy and extended it eastward after the Cold War.”
Understand the U.S. Capitol Riot
On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
- What Happened: Here’s the most complete picture to date of what happened — and why.
- Timeline of Jan. 6: A presidential rally turned into a Capitol rampage in a critical two-hour time period. Here’s how.
- Key Takeaways: Here are some of the major revelations from The Times’s riot footage analysis.
- Death Toll: Five people died in the riot. Here’s what we know about them.
- Decoding the Riot Iconography: What do the symbols, slogans and images on display during the violence really mean?
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she was “angry and sad.” She blamed Mr. Trump unequivocally for the storming of the Capitol that left one woman dead. “Doubts about the election outcome were stoked and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible,” she said.
Germans, for whom the United States was postwar savior, protector and liberal democratic model, have observed Mr. Trump’s attempts to subvert the democratic process and rule of law with particular dismay.
Their anxiety has been accentuated in recent years because the fraying of democracy through polarization, violence, social breakdown and economic hardship has not been confined to the United States. The coronavirus pandemic has sharpened anxieties and mistrust of government. In this context, the mob stampeding through the Capitol seemed to reflect disruptive forces lurking in many parts of the Western world.
If it could happen at democracy’s heart, it could happen anywhere.
Last year, as battles over racial justice raged in several American cities, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrayed Mr. Trump in the Oval Office with a lighted match and called him “Der Feuerteufel,” or literally, “The Fire Devil.”
The message was clear: The American president was playing with fire. This could only stir German memories of the Reichstag fire of 1933 that enabled Hitler and the Nazis to scrap the fragile Weimar democracy that brought them to power.
Painful memory has not been confined to Germany. Throughout much of Europe — a continent where totalitarian rule is not some distant specter, but something people alive today have lived — Mr. Trump’s attacks on an independent judiciary, a free press and the sanctity of the ballot were long seen as ominous.
Ms. Merkel herself started life in Communist East Germany. She has watched as the post-1989 euphoria over the inevitability of a free democratic world has evaporated, deflated by the rise of authoritarian governments. Mr. Trump, attacking foundations of that world like NATO or the European Union, often appeared to want to tilt the world in the same illiberal direction.
He has been defeated. American institutions have withstood the mayhem. Mr. Biden’s victory was duly certified by Congress once order was restored.
Vice President Mike Pence, whom Mr. Trump had tried to enlist in his effort to overturn the November election result, affirmed Mr. Biden as the winner. Mr. Trump issued a statement saying, for the first time, that there will be “an orderly transition on January 20th.” Two victories in Senate races in Georgia ensured that Democrats will control the Senate, a stinging final rebuke to Mr. Trump that opens the way for the new president to pursue his agenda.
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
The House investigation. A select committee is scrutinizing the causes of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory amid various efforts to overturn the results. Here are some people being examined by the panel:
Donald Trump. The former president’s movement and communications on Jan. 6 appear to be a focus of the inquiry. But Mr. Trump has attempted to shield his records, invoking executive privilege. The dispute is making its way through the courts.
Mark Meadows. Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, who initially provided the panel with a trove of documents that showed the extent of his role in the efforts to overturn the election, is now refusing to cooperate. The House voted to recommend holding Mr. Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress.
Scott Perry and Jim Jordan. The Republican representatives of Pennsylvania and Ohio are among a group of G.O.P. congressmen who were deeply involved in efforts to overturn the election. Mr. Perry has refused to meet with the panel.
Phil Waldron. The retired Army colonel has been under scrutiny since a 38-page PowerPoint document he circulated on Capitol Hill was turned over to the panel by Mr. Meadows. The document contained extreme plans to overturn the election.
Fox News anchors. Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade texted Mr. Meadows during the Jan. 6 riot urging him to persuade Mr. Trump to make an effort to stop it. The texts were part of the material that Mr. Meadows had turned over to the panel.
Steve Bannon. The former Trump aide has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena, claiming protection under executive privilege even though he was an outside adviser. His trial is scheduled for next summer.
Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.
Jeffrey Clark. The little-known official repeatedly pushed his colleagues at the Justice Department to help Mr. Trump undo his loss. The panel has recommended that Mr. Clark be held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate.
John Eastman. The lawyer has been the subject of intense scrutiny since writing a memo that laid out how Mr. Trump could stay in power. Mr. Eastman was present at a meeting of Trump allies at the Willard Hotel that has become a prime focus of the panel.
So, all is well after all? Not really. The American idea and American values — democracy, the rule of law, the defense of human rights — have suffered a sustained assault during Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. Rupnik suggested it would be “very difficult” for Mr. Biden to project America as “the convener of a community of democracies,” an idea the incoming administration has aired to signal a return to America’s core principles.
For some time, the rest of the world will look on the United States with skepticism when it seeks to promote democratic values. The images of the overrun Capitol will be there, for those who want to use them, to make the point that America would be best advised to avoid giving lessons in the exercise of freedom. Dictators of the hard and soft variety have new and potent ammunition.
“Democracy Fractured,” was the banner headline in the French daily Le Figaro, above a photograph of the Capitol under siege. An editorial suggested that Mr. Trump might have left office with “a contested but not negligible balance sheet.” Instead, “his narcissism having overcome any dignity, he manhandled institutions, trampled on democracy, divided his own camp and ends his presidency in a ditch.”
There were signs that Mr. Trump’s magnetism is already ebbing. The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, a supporter of Mr. Trump, promptly changed his Twitter profile picture from one showing him wearing a MAGA-style red baseball cap with the words ‘Silné Česko’ (Strong Czech Republic), to one that shows him wearing a face mask with the Czech flag.
The Washington turmoil illustrated in the end that the United States is bigger than one man, a point Mr. Macron seemed intent on making. He alluded to joint American and French support for freedom and democracy since the 18th century. He mentioned Alexis de Tocqueville’s praise of American democracy. He spoke of American defense of French freedom during two World Wars.
Mr. Macron’s message seemed clear. The America of “We the People,” the America that held it self-evident at its creation that “all men are created equal,” was still needed, and urgently, for “our common struggle to ensure that our democracies emerge from this moment that we are all living through even stronger.”
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