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What Democracy Looks (And Sounds) Like

What Democracy Looks (And Sounds) Like

A common protest chant of the Occupy Wall Street crew and other radicals is “This is what democracy looks like!” – a trite, rhythmic expression of self-congratulation layered over an implication that they represent the true will of the people.

Yes, these protests are examples of things that can happen in a democracy, but not because they are a shining example of democracy in action.  These expressions of unfocused rage, with their rampant criminality; their demands for simultaneously iron-and-ham-fisted government actions for and against certain segments of society; and the violent, revolutionary rhetoric surrounding the idea of “occupying” cities, are merely the sorts of authoritarian politics that liberal democracies must tolerate.  They are also features of illiberal democracies – etymologically, the original tyrannies – that lack the rights and limitations of their more just cousins, where 51% can vote to eat the other 49% and politicians are glad to oblige.

It is because we are a liberal constitutional democratic republic that Americans play along with the protesters’ power fantasies about occupying American cities and let them fancy themselves true revolutionaries. Doing so is necessary to keep our interwoven tapestry of rights from unraveling, and the right thing to do regardless. But these protests are authoritarianism’s inadvertant tribute to liberal democracy, necessary evils that remind us of the good.

Shining examples of liberal constitutional democracy as it exists in the country are law-abiding, based in electoral politics, and respectful of individual rights.  Here is a better example of what democracy looks like:

…and another:

Those who shout “This is what democracy looks like!” unironically are virtually never good examples of what a well-ordered democracy sounds like.  In every case I can recall hearing it, it was a good example of what an angry mob of ineffectual extremists sounds like, and judging from their demands, this group fits that bill.

(Tauntingly throwing the chant back at such people after they lose an election is a different story, and I can say from experience, a whole lot of fun!)


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Sean Delonas (NY Post) has drawn the perfect cartoon for the protesters:

Mark America has posted the protesters’ demands:

“Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.”

Thank you for this post. Some of the people who attend or see these rallies are going to be the curious, and they will be repelled by the gibberish they hear. Those people, we want for the Tea Parties.

America is fortunately a Constitutional Republic (sovereignty is in each individual) and not a Democracy (sovereignty is in each group, it’s the mob rule)

The word “democracy” exists neither in the Declaration of Independence or the constitution. The Founding Fathers feared “Democracy” as they feared “Monarchy”. Democracy leads to oligarchies, plutocracies and to where we are drifting to plutarchy (a combination of oligarchy and plutocracy.

Perhaps a new term “liberal constitutional Republic” is appropriate, “The American philosophy and system of government thus bar equally the “snob-rule” of a governing Elite and the “mob-rule” of an Omnipotent Majority.”

Great post, and I couldn’t agree more. When these spoiled children shout “fascist!”, they should try looking in the mirror.

“This is what an infantile temper tantrum looks and (waa waa waa) sounds like.”

David R. Graham | October 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

Bill Safire employed a self-description I often marvel remains unused by Tea Party movement participants: libertarian conservative.

Our host here has mentioned or implied elsewhere that a benefit of the struggles imposed on this nation by a cohort manipulating the mechanisms of her government is being compelled to rediscover who we are and what we do because of who we are.

I think it is also true that certain struggles planned by the cohort to be lethal the cohort knew to stand up slowly to avoid detection and defeat, and that, notwithstanding, the plan was discovered and powerfully responded to.

Back in the day, 40 years ago, there was a natural flushing mechanism at work among protesters. Students could go out and march against Nixon or the “War”. Then, when they graduated they could shower, shave, put away the tie-dies, send out some resumes and get a job.

But not these days. Today when they graduate into Obama’s economy they are saddled with debt and face a shrinking economy with a 9%+ unemployment rate. These kids are going to be on the streets for a while. And every graduating class is just going to dump more out.

    It takes more than a shower, a shave, and a resume to get a job. It takes a sense of personal responsibility and resilience and perserverence; an understanding that nobody can do it FOR you; that you must seek it out and go after it YOURSELF. These protesters see themselves as a group, as victims to some mythical oppressor, not as individuals in a complex and difficult world. The only thing that will get them out of their rut is to individually wake up, break away from their cult, and get on with their ordinary lives.

talktotennessee | October 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Why would you oppose free speech? Why would you call Pilots demonstrating for their jobs or people who have lost their jobs the right to protest? As a person in the housing industry, I watched first hand predatory lending practices by banks who had no skin in the game but originated loans that they passed off as good investments to unsuspecting investors holding our pension funds. Now our industry is not even counted in unemployment records because we are self-employed or independent contractors. Affiliated suppliers have lost sales and homeowners can’t sell their homes because the sale will not cover the mortgage. Housing has lost 20-40% value, which caused a global meltdown, destroyed your pensions funds, still falling. College students coming out of college with heavy student loan burdens can’t find jobs. Some are working in low paid jobs and moved back home. We are in two wars on foreign soil that are taking lives and money. All this and bank CEOs continue to pay themselves millions in bonuses while they sit on heavy reserves waiting to be sued by investors. No criminal charges were filed.
You are asking why people are angry?
This peaceful demonstration bothers you?
What planet do you live on?

    I live on the planet earth…where “peaceful demonstrations” do not include blocking roads/bridges/passages that other law abiding citizens have also paid for under taxation and have every right to passage without the “toll” demanded by these protesters. You make several valid points however you direct them at Wall St which is primarily a liberal left democratic funding base. Why do you think that is? Why do you think they talk democracy and entitlement but, walk the life of billionaires and crony capitalism? I absolutely do not mind a peaceful demonstration. I’ve seen several, they were called Tea Parties, and thousands gathered, used their voices, disrupted no one else, and cleaned up after themselves. What I really mind, as long as you are asking about anger, is how you and these protesters berate capitalism and those that have earned their wealth, yet what you want most is to force them to give it to you when your life’s risk did not reward. Will you also share with them when they have losses? You talk about greed…yet, you are the ones that want what you have not earned and demand the rewards from others hard work…I’d say that makes you greedy, not them. One more thing…the banking debacle, Fannie and Freddie and the housing bubble that you once reaped rewards from was all created by progressive social engineering…not free market capitalism. Get your boogey man right before you hit the streets.

The sad thing is, if you read Liberal Fascism you’ll see that this is exactly how early democrats such as Rousseau and Robespierre envisioned democracy. The Will of the People is a proper noun and completely separate from what the actual people claim to want. This is why you see so many Communist dictatorships with names like “The Democratic People’s Republic of …” because they really do believe they’re more democratic than democracy.

These people honestly believe that they speak for 99% of the population. The problem, as they see it, is that a big chunk of the 99% don’t realize it yet.