The Daily Heller: Saving Democracy Redux

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Last Thursday, as I just happened to be flipping through my pocket-sized copy of Plato’s Republic/Book VIII while waiting in my dentist’s office (to be subjected to his tyranny), I found this:

“Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.” Plato, I recall, was not a fan of democracy. To that extent, one could argue, Plato’s Republic—his paean to his mentor, Socrates—was an argument against democracy as the best form of government. Referring, of course, to ancient Athens, he believed equality brings “power-seeking individuals who are motivated by personal gain. They can be highly corruptible, which eventually leads to tyranny.”

OK, he’s Plato, after all, so he’s got more historical cred than most MAGA members of Congress (and Ginni Thomas) who support insurrection. But as Winston Churchill once said (having been voted out of office as PM after winning WW2): “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried.” He gave no hint of dismantling the system, either.

We do not have to be branded as “woke” to accept that the democratic system is encumbered with flaws, especially in the U.S. But these need not be fatal flaws.

On Dec. 29, 1940, less than a year before going to war against the Axis, FDR explained that the United States must be “the great arsenal of democracy” in the struggle against global tyranny and dictatorship. Yet numerous times here at home, participatory democracy has been violently and legislatively attacked from the demigods, autocrats and oligarchs within. Like a political Whac-A-Mole, they have been only temporarily pounded back into the holes they came from (yet put a quarter in the slot, and they’re back).

Their hijack attempts are enabled by the very rights that democracy guarantees us, so those guarantees must be guarded with those rights, too.

Three years before entering WW2, in February 1939, The Survey Graphic, a monthly magazine concerned with social and economic issues, industrial relations, health, education, international relations, housing, race relations, consumer education, and related fields, published an issue devoted to the threat to democracy from abroad and its inspiration to tyrannical sympathizers within. It is an old song.

Cover designed by Rudolf Modley, a pioneer of pictorial statistics (aka infographics/data viz)

Just read the table of contents below. A majority of the articles and graphics pertain to a specific time, however, their themes have not changed. In Part I alone the articles continue to have relevance. Learning from the past requires strong and continually exercised muscle memory. Flabby muscles call for daily workouts in order to resist the corrosive weakening that comes from too many reps of media, internet and bloviating pundits.

The Survey Graphic is proof that while the years have passed by (all too quickly), the times have not always been a-changing for the best. Vote on Nov. 8, OK?

Emil Herlin, staff of the New York Times