In 508 BC Athens was just another of many Greek cities ruled by a hereditary elite. Perhaps a few hundred men, all of them aristocrats, wielded power in a city of some 200,000 people. Then, the extraordinary happened. The people rose in rebellion, cast off rule by the self-appointed elite and substituted for it the most radical, transformative type of government imaginable.
They called it demokratia – literally rule of the people. In English, we call it democracy.
In a world which had known only kings, queens, sultans and nobles, power was now to rest in the hands of the people. The change was breathtaking. It was also, arguably, a bit mad – this idea that average citizens could be trusted to make decisions on matters of state, life and death, peace and war.
How were bakers, sailors and farmers who had never been five miles from home to make informed decisions? Weren’t educated members of the privileged class better placed to do so? Shouldn’t the masses of commoners trust their wisdom and their judgment?
Demokratia said no. Demokratia said the people were entitled to make decisions about their own lives. More than that, at its core, demokratia said that the people would make better decisions, more just decisions, and that the majority – operating within a system with appropriate checks and balances – would do the right thing.
From the establishment of democracy in Athens to 1776 is over two millennia. Yet, we can draw a direct line – intellectually, philosophically and morally – from the moment the citizens of Athens rose in rebellion to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution. The Founding Fathers, in the aftermath of victory over Britain, could have chosen many courses. They could have opted for an American monarchy, rule by a class of large landowners or any of a wide variety of other forms of government.
The Founding Fathers, many of them classically trained and well-versed in Greek history, chose demokratia. They placed their trust in the people, and this republic has grown, rooted in that trust, from a cluster of tiny colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America, to the most powerful nation the planet has ever seen as a consequence.
And, now we are witnessing an effort to undo all of that, to roll back the clock 2500 years and destroy demokratia.
In 2016 the American people did the unthinkable. They rejected the Democrat Party’s anointed successor to Barack Obama – Hillary Clinton – and, instead, elected a brash, unconventional commercial real estate magnate from New York – Donald J. Trump. Trump played by his own rules. He discarded political niceties. He formulated his own policies with no regard whatsoever for what the “intelligentsia” believed was best for the nation.
And, out of nowhere – without even the support of much of his own party initially – he won.
The Democrats and their allies have never gotten over it. Trump does not share their vision of what America must become. Trump does not have the stamp of approval of the permanent bureaucracy in Washington. He does not follow the dictates of political correctness.
So, Trump must go. If the people support him, and are likely to reelect him, then their right to do so must be eliminated. Since the people will not do what the elite “knows” is best for them, then the authority to choose the President, must, in effect, be taken away from them.
We stand on the brink of another Presidential election. Voting in the first primaries will begin in months. A Democrat Party committed to democracy would be concentrating its efforts on choosing a candidate and a message that could defeat the sitting President at the polls. The Democrats have chosen another path.
The people cannot be trusted with this choice. The people are far too likely to once again vote for Trump and give him a second term in office. The people have decided to take a direction of which the elite does not approve. Therefore, in effect, the peoples’s right to choose is forfeit.
Every day as these impeachment proceedings drag on we are witnessing the spectacle of a self-appointed elite, offended by the President and his policies, arguing that the results of a free and fair election, must be overturned. Every day we are witnessing a parade of supposedly well-educated and intelligent individuals arguing, in effect, that the citizens of Athens made the wrong choice in 508 BC, that the “great unwashed” cannot be trusted with matters of this import and that the Congress of the United States should act to subvert the will of the people.
President Trump has committed no crime. He has in no way abused his office or acted contrary to the Constitution. He has had the temerity to do exactly what he said he would do – on immigration, on trade, on national security – and the “aristocrats” in Washington are offended. Trump must go. The people be damned.
Whether or not this impeachment proceeding will, in fact, result in the removal of the President remains questionable. What is beyond dispute, however, is that every day we are witnessing body blows being delivered to the entire notion of democratic rule. Every day we are watching a concerted effort to destroy demokratia and hand power back to a self-appointed elite. Every day we are watching a group of people intent on one thing – destroying democracy.