And after bacon and eggs the next day,
my friend pulled his pistol on me across the coffee
and we went outside.
And here were all these men and women in the trees,
most of them dead or dying.
And he got the rope ready and I said,
“What does it mean?”
And he said, “It’s authorized, constitutional,
it passed the majority,”
And he tied my hands behind my back then opened the noose.
“I don’t know who’s going to hang me,” he said,
“When I get done with you.
I suppose when it finally works down
there will be just one left and he’ll have to hang himself.”
“Suppose he doesn’t,” I ask.
“He has to,” he said,
“Oh,” I said, “Well,
let’s get on with it.”
Under American democracy, nothing seems to be sacred save the “will of the people.” Vox populi, vox dei — “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
What an unholy god democracy has shown itself to be!
The opening stretch of the 2024 presidential horse race is reminding me of this fact — though calling America’s current democratic process a horse race is an inexact analogy at best. In a horse race, the crowd watches the competition passively. They place bets and cheer on their favorite horse, but the winner is decided by the performance of the horse and its jockey. How absurd it would be if horse race victors were determined at the betting window instead of on the track!
Yet, this absurdity is exactly what American democracy offers: winners decided by the highest bidders and the mob’s hooting and hollering! The more bets placed on horse number five, the faster he rides! The more silver-haired ladies who like horse number seven because he has the same name as their cat, the more furious he plows toward the finish line!
In most competitions, popularity contests are largely removed from the virtues of the sport. Popularity and fandom often follow displays of virtue on the playing field, and rightfully so. But no amount of popularity or diehard fans can save a player from facing the reality of his competition. A jockey must focus on more important things than his mere favor with the crowd — he must actually cultivate his craft and sharpen his skill to achieve victory.
This is exactly the name of the democratic game: win favor with the crowd by almost any means necessary. Democracy is the sport of public relations — or, as it used to be called, propaganda — a contest where carefully crafted public perception trumps all other concerns. Under the unholy god of American democracy, cleverness eclipses wisdom and virtue becomes a sordid show for power.
“The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law,” Ayn Rand wrote of the American founding. “The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right.”
Two centuries of democratic competition and progressive reform have nearly shattered this noble notion that the collective will is restrained by individual rights, and the few restraints that still hold are threatened with each successive election cycle through perpetual crisis, partisan power plays, and corporate media disinformation campaigns.
Contrary to the founding’s presumption of individual liberty, the American people now accept a system of government that defines authority by the will of the collective, with elite experts who shepherd and shape its thoughts, superseding all other considerations.
The great flaw in the American system is this: in rightfully constraining the power of formal government institutions, “the will of the people” broke loose from any notion of restraint, empowering an informal oligarchy of elites to govern as they please in the name of “the people,” all while manipulating the people’s will to conform to their own. Democracy in America, it turns out, is hardly democratic. The masses cannot reason, but they can be fooled into believing their reasons rule the day.
All reasons are worthy altars upon which to sacrifice human liberty, as long as they are popular in the eyes of the sovereign public and their managerial elite. If you wish to know what is true and right, turn to the public opinion polls. Don’t you dare use your independent mind! “The people” are authorized to do as they please! If an opinion is unpopular, then its wisdom is of little to no consequence.
Once men give up their knowledge of the true, the good, and the beautiful in exchange for the marching orders of a self-licking political authority, there is no limit to what can be authorized. Free and faithful men must not relent to authority for authority’s sake, even if it is draped in the noble toga of democracy. Otherwise, they should be prepared to see friends pull pistols across the coffee as they slip, stumble and fall toward civilizational suicide.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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