The Vulnerability of American Democracy: Sanders and Trump

The Vulnerability of American Democracy: Sanders and Trump

Elsewhere in this blog I have discussed President John Adams’ statement that “democracy kills itself,” because people are incapable of living up to its requirements. Some will say that after 200 years his views on the subject are not relevant\.

Yet over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece, Isocrates, (NOT Plato’s) an orator, said much the same thing. “Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality, because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality and anarchy as progress.”

Trump, and to a lesser extent Sanders, are expressions of these views. To whom do these two appeal? The former to people whose impulses and demands are to “destroy the establishment.” Sanders appeals for “a political revolution,” to do what? Why bring down “the establishment.” Clearly, both appeal to largely different, but overlapping groups. Sanders’ supporters are “millenniels”. young voters and college students whom pundits have labeled the “entitled generation.” Trump appeals to disenchanted older voters—those whose expectations exceeded their accomplishments and who blame others, especially recipients of “affirmative action,” welfare and food stamps.

So far, the largest majority, women, have not joined either group in significantly larger than expected numbers. This is probably due to an innate caution, lack of assertive leadership, and the hard-won wisdom of having been disappointed too often. They are, however, in the current critical circumstances, a safety valve. That safety, though, is in jeopardy if the hard-won advances in women’s rights cannot be protected from a “revolution” that is very far from asserting “fairness and equality” for anyone except the revolutionaries–(see previous paragraph).

Within a half-year, momentous choices will be made. The choices made by each of the political parties will affect the likelihood of some sort of “revolution,” or its postponement. More then that is now out of the question. How has it come to this?

Some will say “it is the nature of democracy to live with change, and it only survives from the present crisis until the next.” (Actually, I said that, but I assume that someone else said it first.) Looking at the brief history of political democracy—from the first one, the US, in 1789, and others of varying kinds since then, this is clearly true. Some nations with budding democracies have deserted it, other have changed its character but retained its essentials—the voice of the citizen, however muted, can still be heard.

History tells us that all national “democracies” evolve; some toward more freedom and some away from it. There is no template that describes a “perfect” democracy. Until now, the United States of America in order to form a more perfect union, was a model for the rest of the world. Will it continue?

John H. Langer, JD, Ed.D. Retired Federal agency manger, former professor of education, public school administrator, and writer of a number of articles and publications on education, public affairs, substance abuse and social issues. In writing a book on attention and memory as it relates to education, this blog is helping to focus attention n current issues, and hopefully, add something useful as well.


  1. LJL says:

    Despite what those who call for revolution state, we have a viable and likely to win candidate in Hillary Clinton. Many just don’t “like” her and while I suspect that is due in many cases to deeply hidden sexism that they can’t admit, moderate, intelligent people, both Republican and Democrat will ultimately vote for her. Also, many younger women don’t quite appreciate the advances the women’s movement has brought. While I appreciate that they vote, I suspect if they vote for Sanders (or God forbid Trump) they will regret it when they have more experience and look back on this election.

  2. Steve Sawmelle says:

    First, let’s be clear: The US is not simply a democracy, it’s a representative democracy, a republic. Hence, Trump’s “rigged system” is only partially true (he acts as though we’re a pure democracy). It’s ironic that super-savvy businessman Trump has not had a team smart enough to learn the voting rules of the states! That stupidity (with its resulting whining) is in itself almost enough to disqualify him as a serious candidate. Cruz’s team is super-savvy, it would appear. Yet, there IS truth to the system not being a fair one, overall. The states’ rules a geared specifically to protect “establishment” candidates (witness the super-delegates on the Democrats side). When nominating contests come very close, like this year, the public gets to see how sausage is made, and it ain’t pretty.

  3. admin says:

    True–democracy has evolved since 1789 when the Constitution was adopted. Trump couldn’t care less even he understood. Cruz–now with his VP selection, is as clueless–what is a convention for, if its work is done by the candidates before it convenes? Note, my latest blog addresses–getting a look at how….is made, using FOIA for Congress! (But don’t expect this unless the GOP loses both houses, and even then, it’s not likely.

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