Andrew Sullivan's piece in this week's New York Magazine should be required reading for anyone planning to vote in the presidential election this fall. It's called "Our Democracy Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny: The Case Against the People." Sullivan is known as a conservative political commentator, but he's also quite a complicated fellow (gay, HIV+, British-born, etc.). Regardless of how you might feel about him or any of these descriptors, his article in the magazine raises all sorts of historical and cultural questions about democracy, ideas that we should really pay attention to now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, and as we inch closer to Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
I'm not sure that either of these candidates can or will solve the problems that Sullivan outlines in his article. And he's not the only one who's been making these points over the last few weeks. It's just that for my money, he does it in the most convincing way that I've encountered as of yet. He's essentially proposing that American democracy may very well be on its way down. Like down for the count. The case he makes is compelling based on histories both distant and recent, and I'm not sure anyone on either side of the political line is really safe.
The most disturbing moment comes when Sullivan writes that, "The most powerful engine for a mass movement is the evocation of hatred." When I think about the resonance of that statement, the depth with which it hits me in my head and in my heart, I grow very sad at what American democracy has become. Equal opportunity for all has never really taken hold, as people have continued to be disenfranchised throughout the history of America's democracy. We don't like to think of it that way, but it's the truth. And so all of our attempts to auto correct for this long history of inequities haven't worked. They've functioned like bandages over deep wounds that just continue to fester, and instead of putting in the real time and energy necessary for the wounds to heal, we just keep picking scabs and letting infection set in. And that infection spreads, and we have a systemic situation on our hands. The hatred has taken hold, and we're having a hard time stamping it out.
I'm not sure what to do or what to suggest, other than that you should read this Sullivan article. My first baby step is to take stock, try to understand how I contribute to the points he raises, try to figure out how I might be able to re-investigate, re-understand the potentials of democracy without falling into the traps that have been laid. It's a sobering undertaking. And I have no idea what to think about the future.