Pro-democratic ideological think tanks that evaluate the future of democracy by the extent of its global spread and the fortunes of relatively insignificant countries around the world (the Third one, especially) should be far more concerned with events currently occurring in the Mother of Parliaments in Westminster and with present political trends in one of the two major parties in her first and historically most important and distinguished offspring, the United States of America. In the first instance, a Parliament 74 percent of whose members voted in the national referendum three years ago for the United Kingdom to remain imprisoned by the sinister European Union is deliberately defying the expressed will of the British people to leave it. Several of these honorables, indeed, have expressed their view that the voters should, and need, not be heeded in this matter—or, apparently, in any other on which they disagree with their so-called representatives. In the second, a significant portion of the Democratic Party is succumbing to the most blatant demagoguery in the history of this country.
The British debate over membership in the E.U. and the nation’s relationship with the Continent has brought down four prime ministers and is about to unhorse another. Three years ago, David Cameron decided to settle the business once and for all. To do so, he thought, was of especial importance to his own Tory Party, which had been more divided than any other by the issue. Cameron himself was and is a Remainer, as indeed most of Westminster is, including virtually all of the civil service. He would never have committed himself and his country to a determining referendum, nor would his party or any other in the land save UKIP have done so, had he imagined that the choice to Leave might actually prevail. In the event, Leave won by 52 to 48 percentage points, a substantial margin of victory in any nationwide vote, though of course Remainers persist in calling it “close.”
Between June 23, 2016, and now, Leavers—the vast majority of them residents of London, and including by far the larger part of the British establishment—have been trying to reverse the result by calling for a second referendum, and now by the concerted effort of all the Members of the House of Commons to seize the business of the House from the hands of Theresa May’s government, the equivalent of our Executive Branch under the British Constitution; thus uniting the representative power with the executive one to ensure that Britain cannot leave the E.U. without first having achieved a “deal” with Brussels. Their attempts ignore the facts that the referendum made no mention of any such thing as a “deal,” and that, as the law now stands, the U.K. must withdraw from the E.U.—originally on March 29, a date now graciously extended by Brussels to April 12. That the result is a constitutional crisis has been recognized by such eminences as the English historian Robert Tombs, the historian and British constitutionalist Vernon Bogdanor, and Charles Moore, the editor and columnist as well as Margaret Thatcher’s official biographer. It does not seem an exaggeration to suggest that what Great Britain faces today is the equivalent of the situation that confronted the United States in 1861.
This side of the Atlantic the issues are political rather than constitutional—for now—but they are nearly as grave. The heads of the three major justice and investigative departments of the federal government have been caught out conspiring to influence a presidential election and after that to bring down a sitting president from partisan motives. More, their efforts were apparently inspired and abetted by powerful politicos, in the first case by a former First Lady and Democratic presidential candidate and her husband, the former President; in the second by an incumbent President and members of his staff, all of whom were at least aware of the illegal intrigue. Corruption even at this level is (theoretically, at least) reparable by political and administrative means. What is not easily fixed—perhaps not correctable at all—is the demagogic spirit that is taking over the Democratic Party and that its senior ranks appear at a total loss to manage, let alone stop.
President Trump’s enemies and critics, including those among establishment Republicans and self-described conservatives, have been condemning him for years as a populist rabble-rouser. Yet Donald Trump is neither of these things, as his speech in March in Rapid City shows. No “populist” faces what seemed to be a mainly blue-collar audience and asserts what liberals would call his “privileged” background—his enormous fortune, his beautiful apartment, his expensive furniture, and his first-class education at the “best” schools. Nor does a “populist” audience cheer such a man. More importantly, though, Trump did not run on a platform of fantastic, irresponsible, and frankly idiotic promises. He swore, if elected, to bring back what America was; not what some political dreamer (or outright fraud) would like her to be in future. He promised to make America great again, not to wave a magic wand and transform her into Shangri-La. The candidate did not offer himself to the country as the Wizard of Oz, or even the Wizard of Fifth Avenue. Everything he criticized about America, everything he promised to do, was rational, and rationally possible—if sometimes improbable at this late date. And almost always it had been done before: a matter of undoing and redoing, not inventing out of thin air.
Consider the campaign proposals of “progressive” Democratic candidates today—outlawing cattle, airplanes, cars, and oil; free college education and healthcare for everyone; discouraging the reproduction of the human race, pulling down walls and barriers to create open borders and inviting the whole of the impoverished world to cross them; abolishing ICE; impeaching a President who has just been absolved of treason after a two-year investigation prosecuted substantially by liberals. And then notice the vast differences between an adult political program and one apparently produced in the same Disney studios that created cartoon movies about Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Bambi. The resulting ideas might be risible were the intentions behind them not so plainly dishonest and sinister.
“People,” said T.S. Eliot, “cannot bear too much reality.” The descent to hell is made infinitely easier by encouraging them to exchange reality for its opposite. And doing that is what demagogy is, and always has been, about.Originally Published by Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture – April 4, 2019