Legendary political and media persona Pat Buchanan has recently published a serious lamentation about the dying state of Democracy we find ourselves in. His piece “Is Democracy a Dying Species” asks a profound and very relevant question that I will humbly try to answer for Mr. Buchanan is one of the few people in politics capable of listening to answers he may not like.
His overall line of thinking revolves around an apparent paradox within Democracy as he sees it. That in many of the most prosperous nations on Earth, whose wealth Mr. Buchanan attributes to Democracy there are large Anti-Democratic violent movements which seem to be only increasing size and number.
“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?”
The problem in Mr. Buchanan’s reasoning is the foundational idea that change within Democracy has at any time ever been done by the majority. Every revolution, be it towards or away from Western-Style Democracy (or for radial change within it) has been the passion project of a tiny elite majority.
The “Russian” Communists in 1916 were a small network of intellectuals sharing underground newspapers and waiting for an opportunity and when they got their chance they were able to woo the angry frustrated (by WWI) masses to their side. Besides dying with rifles in their hands to crush the Whites, few of them probably even truly knew what they were fighting for. Communism offered “land to the peasants” and that is all they needed to know. An intelligent elite started this revolution and the masses fought it.
On the Declaration of Independence, there are 56 signatures, not countless thousands. The elite of the Colonies determined it was time for a change, not the masses. After victory and the failed Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was written by a handful highly intelligent, highly ideological, powerful individuals. The masses simply had the greatest agreement in human history between man and government handed to them as an article of faith to be accepted, which they did. How many of them truly understood the concept of Liberty in the context of the Enlightenment? How many understood the debate between Hobbes and Locke? Probably none, but many died fighting as if they did.
Moving away from revolutionary change in a violent sense, it is obvious that the ability of the majority to elect officials, is a key part of Democracy, but many of the big issues that they have voted on have been put on the table due to lobbyists and activists. And these individuals represent a tiny minority of society that is highly ideologically passionate, very active and at times well funded. The toiling masses never woke up one day to demand gender neutral bathrooms, hate crime legislation or to eliminate plastic straws. Public support for these things was created by activists/lobbyists.
The real truth and one of the key reasons, why I argue that Democracy “does not exist” is that the masses do not and cannot actually reflect their will systemically. 40 million Ukrainian citizens now life in Europe’s Zimbabwe because 40,000 of them created the Maidan leading to thousands of deaths in the Donbass and the Russian language being made all but illegal which is blasphemous to Enlightenment principles. No Democratic system would allow this, but the will of the majority who are busy toiling away their lives is never counted.
As we move forward, the goals of activists will only continue to grow more and more pointless and baffling, as those who have time for activism tend to be traditionally the absolute bottom of society – angry rejects without jobs or families living on some sort of welfare. It is this type of person who has the free time necessary to conduct the ideological work needed to convince the media that they are the majority instead of the tiny but vocal minority they are. Every revolutionary group and political movement always insists that it speaks for the majority, but none of them ever actually do.
Richard Nixon had a moment of genius when he coined the phrase “silent majority” because that is exactly the way in which the working, busy, toiling, child-raising overwhelming majority behaves in society – silently, only until an organized, motivated by a tiny elite minority can rile them up to fight for their own ideological ends.
I think what Mr. Buchanan actually wants is for the majority’s voice to be heard because it is a far more traditional, conservative, pro-human worldview and I whole-heartedly share his dream. It is the factory worker and farmer in the heartland that give a nation its soul and are the source of goodness in society. The American Rugged Individual in the fly-over states and the Russian “Muzhik” far from Moscow’s MKAD highway are the backbone of the two societies in which I live, but sadly they are eternally silenced by the San Fransisco’s and Downtown Moscow’s activist freak show.