Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

The Fall of Democracy

Democracy is having problems around the world, under attack by both the left and right fringes as being inefficient and weak at a time when decisive strength is necessary. But that’s the nature of democracy. When the many (instead of the few) lead, when mass consensus is required for change, nothing comes easy.

Totalitarian regimes come with certain advantages – like being able to adjust to a situation instantly. Leaders don’t have to check with their constituents before engaging in some sort of action. Kim Jong Un doesn’t need to feel the pulse of his nation before deciding to test fire a nuclear weapon. Bashar Al-Assad doesn’t need to check with local legislators before deciding to deploy chemical weapons to defeat an insurgency.

These things may be bad for the citizens of the countries at issue, but they’re good (at least in the short term) for their leaders. And in times of crisis, they allow for decisive action without dithering – which our democratic leaders often do in situations that don’t demand rapid solutions.

This is our fault.

We let it happen because we are so divided about what kind of nation we should be. We listen to the voices of extremism that promise we can have it all if we just exert more strength, more insistence on doing things our way. Rigidity of thought becomes the norm.

And with that inflexibility comes the refusal to compromise, which some call appeasement (never mind that the term is incorrect – the people who spout off at the mouth don’t care about that kind of accuracy).

So with the slow decline of prosperity and increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo, we allow ourselves to be seduced by magical thinking, to believe that we can have a stronger defense, no cuts to Social Security or Medicare, and at the same time, massive tax cuts.

We buy into the lies because we want to believe there are easy answers, when we know in our hearts there aren’t. We reject the voices of moderation because they ask us to give something up, while the extremists say, that’s stupid, we can have it all. We can eat our cake and in the morning it will still be there for us to eat again.

We elect politicians and tell them they’d better not surrender even one inch or we’ll find someone even more fanatical to replace them. We win on a few issues and think, if we just dig in harder, we can win on all of them, so we push and push the envelope, growing ever more unwilling to accept that we might not know best.

And our “leaders” follow our example, becoming more and more totalitarian. It’s a recipe for disaster and it’s just about done. We need to step back and find moderates from both parties to run our country. If we don’t, we may not have a country to run.

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