From Pine View Farm

Democracy Demagoguery in America (Updated) 2

Robert Kagan sees darkness if Donald Trump is elected. He suggests that the Republicans who are now falling in line–in some cases, falling all over themselves–to support him, because in Republican world, winning is the only thing, do not realize the implications of his rise. Here’s a snippet:

Republican politicians marvel at how he has “tapped into” a hitherto unknown swath of the voting public. But what he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.

“Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.

It has been a long time since I read de Tocqueville, but I recall the passages to which Kagan refers. The author worried that the American dream would collapse under its own weight.

(If you haven’t read de Tocqueville, you should; it captures a moment in early American history, a moment that is often misrepresented, and remains relevant today.)

Addendum, a Few Minutes Later:

Colin Woodward discusses the European view of Trumpery at the Portland Press-Herald. An excerpt:

. . . he’s championed a group of people who’ve seen their standard of living decline in the face of globalization: the white working class, whose economic interests haven’t been represented by either party in two generations. He claims he’ll bring back manufacturing and make their America great again. They’ve responded enthusiastically, although Trump is about as far from conservative Christian family values and Republican free market orthodoxy as one can get. They’re the warm water fueling the Trump hurricane.

The downside is that Trump is seeking to protect these “good Americans” in a fashion familiar to Europeans: by threatening to withdraw normal legal and constitutional protections for those seen as “traitorous others.” For European far-right nationalists like those in Hungary’s Jobbik, the British National Party or the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, this class usually includes some combination of Jews, Roma (also known as Gypsies), Muslim immigrants or foreigners from countries they dislike. For Trump, it’s Mexicans, Muslim-Americans, the journalists in the press pen or the black protester at his rally who maybe should be beaten up; he’s promised, in one such instance, to pay the legal bills of someone who tried to do just that.



  1. George Smith

    May 23, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    You saw that Austria almost put a hard right wing guy in (largely ceremonial) power. The vote split nearly exactly down the middle with the Green Party winning by a hair. The establishment parties were tossed.

    Some similar reasons — in Europe, immigrant backlash and austerity. Here — immigrant hate, decades of economic decay.

    Google some images of Robert Kagan. Brookings sinecure. Lose some weight, buddy. Guys like Kagan aren’t going to save us from Trump with essays. Andrew Sullivan pulled the same thing, only longer, a week or two prior.

    It’s difficult to for me to be enthusiastic about anything someone from the professional class who has been by turns a neocon and a neoliberal, depending on which way the wind blows. He’s just the kind of elite windbag Trumpism holds up before his base as a punching bag who has it coming.

    Taibbi roasted Sullivan at Rolling Stone for the “too much democracy” thing; Kagan’s only difference is he calls it “mobocracy” and goes “Alexander Hamilton,” trending now because the play’s the thing.

    Here’s Taibbi, and it made me laugh:

    “But the crowning effort on the right-wing snobbery front came from none other than British blogging icon and noted hairy person Andrew Sullivan. The aforementioned came out of semiretirement to write a 7,000-word jeremiad for New York magazine about how Trump was the inevitable product of too much democracy.

    “The CliffsNotes summary of his monstrous piece, ‘Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic,’ might go something like this: When I read Plato in grad school, I learned that in free societies the mob eventually stops deferring to the wisdom of smart people, and therefore must be muzzled before they send Trump to wash the streets with our blood.”

    I recommend the whole thing. Anyway, getting back to the Kagan essay. Same thing, same illustrious class bleat, shorter, substitute some different names from history.

  2. Frank

    May 23, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    It’s hard for me to have enthusiasm about anything from The Brookings Institute, but I found that a particularly well-written piece. Frankly, I think Woodward’s was better, because he spoke from experience and made telling analogies between Europe’s fascist right-wing and ours. That’s why I added it to the post. (Plus I love publicizing regional newspapers, second-tier blogger that I may be.)

    I do try to keep an eye on things in Europe. Some of the stories at are rather chilling, and is little more than popular press. And, of course, I’m long-time reader of The Guardian. In college, I remember reading the airmail edition regularly in the Swem Library. Even Denmark, for which I have some affection, having been there, is borderline nuts.

    What’s that old quote apocryphally ascribed to Churchill? “There will be Fascism in America, but it will be called ‘anti-Fascism.'”

    Trump’s base is the basest of the base–recycled segregationists, racists, anti-Semites, misogynists, and what Michael-in-Norfolk calls “Christofascists,” all believing themselves to be “reel Amurikkkans.”

    And the Republican Party, where winning is the only thing, is welcoming them to its vile and loathsome embrace.

    Andrew Sullivan is David Brooks with British public school received pronunciation. Both of them have made careers of making cupcakes out of cow pies.

    Ask me nicely, I’ll tell you what I really think.