There’s nothing inherently virtuous about the “will of the people.” The people are just as capable of becoming tyrants as any tin-pot dictator is.
I thought of these actions — or failures to act — as the Republican delegates faced their own fateful decision at the GOP convention.
Would they hand the Party of Lincoln to a man who makes a mockery of the party’s founding principles as well as the character of its founder? Would they fulfill their intended roles as actual leaders of one of America’s two great political parties — as guardians not only of its electoral prospects but also of its values and ideals?
They punted to a plurality of the people. Not everyone, of course. There was some brave dissent, and to the extent the party survives as a viable (and valuable) American political force, it will rebuild around those dissidents.
Yet as I watched men and women chanting for Donald Trump, I thought of the second part of that John Adams quote, in which he diagnoses what happens when democracies start to fail, when the people start to reject the world they made.
They turn to a savior: They soon cry, “This will not do; we have gone too far! We are all in the wrong! We are none of us safe! We must unite in some clever fellow, who can protect us all, — Caesar, Bonaparte, who you will! Though we distrust, hate, and abhor them all; yet we must submit to one or another of them, stand by him, cry him up to the skies, and swear that he is the greatest, best, and finest man that ever lived!”
In other words, when the guardrails crumble, the call for the strong man echoes the loudest.
Make America Safe Again.
Make America Work Again.
Make America Great Again.
Get on the Trump Train, citizens.