A misuse plagues our republic: the misuse of democracy; instead of building a democratic, and just, society, we simply use democracy to validate and renew the personnel of oligarchy.
The Roman republic, founded when King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown in 509 BCE, and came to an end with Julius Caesar became dictator in 49 BCE and transitioned to the Roman Empire in 27BCE by Augustus. Like the Roman Republic, ours also has a history, which has been written pretty well by Michael Tomasky in If We Can Keep It. He divides this republic’s into 4 ages: the age of creation, from the constitutional convention to the civil war, the age of power, from the civil war to the Great Depression, to the age of consensus, from the Great Depression and World War 2 to Reagan, and the after of Fracture, from Reagan to now. Add inequality to Fracture. Unlike Rome, however, democracy is also both the culture of aspirations, whereas for the Romans, it was the culture and aspiration of the Athenians. Democracy, from Thomas Paine’s, to Rosa Parks’s, to Emerson’s, from community murals’, to Billie Holiday’s and the early Neil Young’s, bu also to Andrew Jackson’s, also has a history in this society, and is not only what allowed for the popularity of Neil Young’s song “Ohio”, but also the fact that it is well known that though LBJ was not ready for a civil rights act at the start of march on montgomery, at the end of it he had become its poet. Democracy in America exists in relation to the American republic, in much deeper ways the “push me to do it” that politicians use. Democracy, which can also be termed dignity, is a cultural force in America, and has fashioned the body public. This relationship, however, can be corrupted, especially by an oligarchic republic wheeling and dealing a democratic sector that is in no way as wealthy.
American democracy is its own dove. Like the tradition of Indian democracy found in the sabha, of Ibo African democracy, and so on, it’s the product of rebellion. Plutarch writes the following about Athenian democracy:
“Long standing political dispute, with people forming as many different political parties as there were different kinds of terrain in the country. There were the Men of the Hills, who were the most democratic party, the Men of the Plain, who were the most oligarchic, and thirdly the men of the coast who favored an intermediate mixed kind of system.”
It is the rebellion of political parties in Ancient Athens, and collaboration of Archons, chiefs, such as Solon and Pericles, that gave way to Athenian male slave-owning democracy. Plutarch says the most democratic implying that some of the parties were less democratic than others, and it seems to be that democracy was a consensus, a concord, a concept dear to Athenian sophists and the Romans (who made concord a Goddess, concordia) that came after a rebellion.
In what Tomasky names The Age of Fracture, there has yet to be a concord on democracy for contemporary times. Though liberal democracy and conservative democracy (an anti-democracy that purges voter rolls) are the most dominant ones, social justice democracy, a term I’ve taken from the group Justice Democrats that Rep. AOC belongs to, has become very important, and the recent Black Lives Matters protests and Youth Climate March demonstrations are signs of this. Socalist democracy has been making a name for itself lately, and is mostly having an impact at the municipal and state levels.
Prophecy, Jeremiads, literature – communication – participates most notably in American Democracy’s cohabitation with Republicanism. These days, because the republic is fractured and oligarchic, democracy is being misused to maintain the same republic as the promise of a new republic without such inequalities.
It all comes together as the explicit endorsement of democracy by elected officials of the fractured and oligarchic republic though it is implicit in their past and present decisions that democracy and its many institutions such as those of unity, such as unions, those of culture, such as neighborhood cultural centers, will be marginalized. The combustion, a term dear to poet Will Alexander, of democracy comes next.
The Fractured Republic must not speak democracy, it should serve democracy, and be its Solon or its LBJ. Solon produced the conditions by which Athenian democracy flourished: Peisistratos, the tyrant after Solon, had no choice but to upkeep much of what Solon had down, though he found ways around much of it. Furthermore, a synthesis should join the Republic and democracy once and for all.