Democracy Ushers in the Reign of Civic Ignorance | Crisis Magazine


The many analyses of the 2012 election results are not saying much about what may have been the central and fundamental problem: democracy. Notice that I do not say a democratic republic—that was the nature of the American political order as fashioned by our Founding Fathers—but a democracy. A generation ago, Martin Diamond, Winston Mills Fisk, and Herbert Garfinkle explained the difference. A democratic republic features majority rule, to be sure, but through representative institutions (this is its democratic aspect). Its ruling principle, then, is not “power to the people.” It is republican in the sense of being a constitutional regime that is governed by the rule of law and protects minority rights, and because it is characterized by restraint, sobriety, competence, and liberty. The culture of the Founding Era in America, upon which our democratic republic was erected (politics always springs from culture), made these qualities possible. It was a time of strong morality (nowhere stronger than in sexual matters), willingness to sacrifice, strong religious commitment, self-control, and public-spiritedness among many other commendable mores.

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