Is Democracy A Dying Species?

22 10 2019

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

The United States has the purest form of democracy in the world.  Does this mean that it is perfect, and without flaws?  Certainly not.  But we are blessed by our Founders’ inherent wisdom, which has stood the tests of time.  Years ago, I wrote:

I believe in this country, and I believe in Americans of all colors, faiths and backgrounds. The United States is the only true melting pot in the world, with its populace representing a United Nations of the world’s peoples. Yes, we fight and we even discriminate, but when times are tough—like after 9/11—we come together as one nation, which makes this country so great and special. Also, all of us or our ancestors came here from somewhere else. Even the American Indians are descended from those who crossed the Bering Strait—or the “Bering land bridge”—according to anthropologists.[2]

Pat Buchanan—an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and a former GOP presidential aspirant himself—has asked the question that is the title of this article:

What happens when democracy fails to deliver? What happens when people give up on democracy?

What happens when a majority or militant minority decide that the constitutional rights of free speech, free elections, peaceful assembly and petition are inadequate and take to the streets to force democracy to submit to their demands?

Our world may be about to find out.

Chile is the most stable and prosperous country in Latin America.

Yet when its capital, Santiago, recently raised subway fares by 5%, thousands poured into the streets. Rioting, looting, arson followed. The Metro system was utterly trashed. Police were assaulted. People died. The rioting spread to six other cities. Troops were called out.

President a Sebastian Pinera repealed the fare hike and declared a national emergency, stating, “Chile is at war against a powerful, implacable enemy who does not respect anything or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits.”

How does a democracy that has spawned within itself a powerful and implacable enemy deal with it?

Last week, tens of thousands of Lebanese of all faiths and political associations rioted in Beirut and Tripoli to demand the overthrow of the regime and the ouster of its president, speaker of parliament and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. All must go, the masses demand.

In Barcelona, Friday, half a million people surged into the streets in protest after the sentencing in Madrid of the secessionists who sought to bring about the independence of Catalonia from Spain in 2017.

In all of China, few enjoy the freedoms of the 7 million in Hong Kong. Yet, for five months, these fortunate and free Chinese, to protest a proposal that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, stormed into the streets to defy the regime and denounce the conditions under which they live.

These protests have been marked by riots, vandalism, arson and clashes with police. “Hong Kong streets descended into chaos following an unauthorized pro-democracy rally Sunday,” writes the Associated Press. Protesters “set up roadblocks and torched businesses, and police responded with tear gas and a water cannon. Protesters tossed firebombs and took their anger out on shops with mainland Chinese ties.”

What are the Hong Kong residents denouncing and demanding?

They are protesting both present and future limitations on their freedom. The appearance of American flags in the protests suggests that what they seek is what the agitators behind the Boston Tea Party and the boys and men at Concord Bridge sought — independence, liberty and a severing of the ties to the mother country.

Yet, because the Communist regime of Xi Jinping could not survive such an amputation, the liberation of Hong Kong is not in the cards. The end to these months of protest will likely be frustration, futility and failure.

Perhaps it is that realization that explains the vehemence and violence. But the rage is also what kills the support they initially received.

In 1960s America, the first civil rights demonstrations attracted widespread sympathy. But the outburst of urban riots that followed in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and 100 cities after Martin Luther King’s assassination sent millions streaming to the banners of Gov. George Wallace in the campaigns of 1968 and 1972.

When the “yellow vest” protests broke out in 2018 in Paris, over a fuel tax, the demonstrators had the support of millions of Frenchmen.

But that support dissipated when protesters began smashing windows of boutique shops on the Champs-Elysee, assaulting police and desecrating monuments and memorials.

This reversion to violence, ransacking of stores and showering of police with bricks, bottles and debris, is costing the protesters much of the backing they enjoyed. In the trade-off between freedom and order, people will ultimately opt for order.

Yet, one wonders: Why are these outbursts of violent protests and rioting taking place in stable, free and prosperous societies?

Chile is the most stable and wealthy country in South America. Catalonia is the most prosperous part of Spain. Paris is hardly a hellhole of repression. And Hong Kong is the freest city of China.

If the beneficiaries of freedoms and democratic rights come to regard them as insufficient to produce the political, economic and social results they demand, what does that portend for democracy’s future?

For, despite the looting, arson and attacks on cops in Hong Kong, Xi Jinping is not going to order his satraps to yield to popular demands for autonomy or independence. Nor is Madrid going to accept the loss of Barcelona and secession of Catalonia. Nor is the conservative Chilean government going to yield to the street rebels and revolutionaries. Nor is Paris going to back down to the “yellow vests.”

Yet, one wonders: If the “end of history” and worldwide triumph of democratic capitalism thesis has, as most agree, been disproven, is it possible that the Age of Democracy is itself a passing phase in the history of the West and the world?[3]

Americans have not given up on democracy at all.  While many are at odds with their fellow citizens about the direction that our great nation should take, they are exercising their rights of free speech dramatically, for an often-troubled world to see.  Is it a pretty sight?  Is democracy in action an edifying experience?  Not always, but it is a sign that our great democracy is functioning.  

The rifts in our body politic cut across lots of fracture lines: Donald Trump or no Trump[4]; abortions or no abortions[5]; foreign wars or no foreign wars[6]; the admission of illegal immigrants or none[7]; man-made “global warming,” or one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on Mankind by the “eco-Nazis”[8]; — . . . and the list goes on and on.

If one person could be said to have been at the very heart of the cleavages in our society today it is the racist and anti-Semite Barack Obama, who did more than any other president to resew the seeds of racism in America today, and to divide this country along fault lines that are “fragile” in the best of times.[9]  By leading the treasonous efforts to destroy the candidacy and then the presidency of Donald Trump, there is no doubt that Obama engaged in sedition, which is consistent with his character.[10]

Pat Buchanan was correct when he observed that “the rage is . . . what kills the support they initially received”—and we have seen all of this before (e.g., during the Vietnam War era), and survived.  George Orwell warned about it in his prescient Animal Farm, where all of the animals were considered equal until the Pigs accreted power and control, and subjugated the other animals (or “disbelievers”) until they reigned supreme.[11]

Abraham Lincoln and his trusted generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, dealt with the harsh realities of divisions within our great nation that might have torn it asunder—and they prevailed.[12]  At times, the forces of division (and of evil and darkness) must be destroyed, not simply defeated.  Nothing less will suffice. This was certainly true of Adolph Hitler and his “Thousand-Year Reich.”

Lastly, Pat Buchanan was mistaken in the conclusion of his article above.  In the United States, the Left is being given enough rope to hang itself, like its alter egos did before.  And most Americans are myopic: they are focused on their own lives, and do not really care what goes on in the world outside—as long as it does not affect them—which is understandable.

 

 

© 2019, Timothy D. Naegele


[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and https://naegeleblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/timothy-d.-naegele-resume-19-9-27.pdf). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service). Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/ (“America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life”) (citing http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/ and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele)

[3]  See https://buchanan.org/blog/is-democracy-a-dying-species-137638

[4]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/this-is-war-abraham-lincoln-and-ronald-reagan-understood-this-and-donald-trump-does-too/ (“This Is War—Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan Understood This, And Donald Trump Does Too”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/30/impeachment-may-become-the-singular-obsession-in-washington-and-dominate-news-coverage/ (“Impeachment May Become The Singular Obsession In Washington, And Dominate News Coverage”)

[5]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/abortions-and-autos-kill-more-in-america-than-guns/#comment-3298 (“55 Million American Babies Killed Since Roe v. Wade“—”One can only conjecture as to the contributions they would have made, which are forever lost like the contributions of more than 60 million human beings who were killed by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and their thugs”)

[6]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/19/the-middle-east-is-not-americas-fight/ (“The Middle East Is Not America’s Fight”)

[7]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/illegal-immigration-the-solution-is-simple/ (“Illegal Immigration: The Solution Is Simple”) (see also the extensive comments beneath the article)

[8]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/a-34-trillion-swindle-the-shame-of-global-warming/ (“A $34 Trillion Swindle: The Shame Of Global Warming”) (see also the extensive comments beneath the article)

[9]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/ (“Is Barack Obama A Racist?”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/barack-obama-is-responsible-for-americas-tragic-racial-divide/ (“Barack Obama Is Responsible For America’s Tragic Racial Divide”) (see also the extensive comments beneath the articles); but see https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/edward-w-brooke-is-dead/ (“Edward W. Brooke Is Dead”)

[10]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/should-barack-obama-be-executed-for-treason/ (“Should Barack Obama Be Executed For Treason?”)

[11]  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm (“Animal Farm“)

[12]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/ulysses-s-grant-an-american-hero/ (“Ulysses S. Grant: An American Hero”)

 

 


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3 responses

22 10 2019
Anne Farrelly

Tim, enjoy your essays very much. I have an idea for one : Can a democracy exist alongside Socialism?

Anne

23 10 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Anne. It is always nice to hear from you. 🙂

The short answer is yes, at least in my judgment. A democracy is the description of a political system; whereas, socialism describes an economic system.

For example, the people of a country could be given the right to vote, albeit their candidates and choices may be few; whereas, the fundamental economic system of the country might be socialism and not capitalism.

Most “socialist” countries of the world—at least in the 21st Century—are neither pure socialism nor pure authoritarian regimes. Perhaps the best example would be China and Hong Kong. Under Xi Jinping, the “People’s Republic of China” is the world’s most populous country, and he functions as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Elections occur; and capitalism is flourishing, especially among the young Chinese, with respect to whom the Internet and smartphones have been their windows on the world.

See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China (“China”) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xi_Jinping (“Xi Jinping”)

In Russia, dictator-for-life Vladimir Putin has run for elections too, albeit his opponents have been essentially nonexistent. Capitalism exists in that country as well, albeit Putin’s cronies seem to have benefited most, many of whom reside in London today.

See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Putin (“Vladimir Putin”); see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-democracy (“Post-democracy”)

23 10 2019
H. Craig Bradley

PEACE, THEN CHAOS OVERNIGHT

Increasingly, what we are hearing about are various civil uprisings in cities and regions around the world. It seems many people have been “beat down” by the system or are perceiving the game is rigged against them. One driver of such perceptions, right or wrong, is the increasingly competitive nature of our and other nation’s economies. Simply put, it takes more “horsepower” to get up the hill.

In most developed nations, poor government policies and fiscal management have aggravated the inequities and sore feelings. Growing public debts have saddled today’s workers with very long term liabilities to shoulder, while others seem to enjoy the benefits of leverage ( bankers and the infamous one-percent). Reduced economic growth rates are a natural consequence of high taxes, low productivity, and low economic growth rates.

There is the strong possibility that nefarious elements in these troubled times are intentionally fueling riots and unrest and using the least productive and educated people, many of them young and disenchanted to bring about a revolution and collapse of Democratic societies. They may be intentionally destabilizing key functions such as public transportation in Chile to achieve their political ends. By continuing in this way, they can wear down the government and elect an extremist who promises security and order.

Thus, a socialist President might be able to take control of government in the next election, then hold power indefinitely. This is exactly what Hugo Chavez did in Valenzuela. Thus, Middle Class voter apathy is not going to make such trouble-making simply go away. It may in fact intensify in the coming years. California is another place where secular political and economic decline is going to further destroy social cohesion. We are all living in dangerous times, not just “interesting” times, possibly akin to the late 1930’s. Things can dramatically change almost overnight too. Happened in Chile and in Argentina many times before. Go to bed on a normal Sunday night and then wake-up to absolute chaos on Monday.

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