Pro-democracy coup in Turkey fails

Turkey has a tradition of practicing a more moderate type of Islam with a more secular government than other middle eastern states.  Thus, secular is one of the few Islamic countries with a long-standing democracy.  So not all Turks are happy with the government of President Erdogan, who, though democratically elected has become more and more authoritarian and seeks to impose Sharia law.

Last weekend, parts of the military staged a coup attempt, promising a restoration of democracy, human rights, and freedom.  But Erdogan called for the people to go to the streets, and they did.  With the help of police and the Turkish military that did not support the coup, the insurrection was crushed.  Thousands have been arrested.

Erdogan is blaming the coup on a moderate, pro-Western cleric named Fethullah Gulen, who has many followers–dubbed “Gulenists”–in Turkey.  Gulen, who denies involvement, has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999.  Erdogan is demanding that the United States arrest him and extradite him back to Turkey.

In principle, we might wish for a new  non-Islamist government to take over. Then again, Erdogan was democratically elected and is the lawful President of the country.  President Obama denounced the coup attempt and expressed his support for Erdogan, which I guess the world’s governments are obliged to do.  Even though Turkey might be an example of a democracy voting to end democracy. [Read more…]

Plato on the course of democracy

As Andrew Sullivan reminds us, Plato predicted Donald Trump, down to his personality and lifestyle.  Plato also predicted multiculturalism, feminism, adults imitating children, tolerance for everything, morality giving way to pleasure above all, opposition to all authority, resentment against the rich, teachers controlled by students, and the rise of tyranny.  All of these grow out of democracy, as it runs its course.  Sullivan also shows how our founders tried to prevent these things from happening by designing a republic (not a pure democracy) with constitutional checks and balances, but how those have eroded.  “Tyranny,” said Plato’s Socrates, “is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” [Read more…]

How the Founders tried to prevent a Donald Trump

If Republicans pull some convention maneuvering to prevent the nomination of Donald Trump, wouldn’t that thwart the will of the people?  Well, historian Andrew Trees shows that the Founders of our nation who wrote the Constitution believed that the will of the people often needed to be thwarted, or at least checked and balanced.  The Founders feared that the public would be tempted to vote according to their “passions,” thus allowing themselves to be manipulated by a “demagogue” who would stir up these passions to put himself into power.  (Sound familiar?)  This is why the Founders built non-Democratic safeguards into our Republic, such as having the president be elected not by the public but by the Electoral College.

Many of those safeguards have been gotten rid of, unfortunately.  (Perhaps the coming debacle will encourage us to bring them back:  If political parties are corrupt, something both angry voters today and the original Founders would agree on, let’s remove the presidency from politics.  Let’s vote state-by-state for delegates to the Electoral College, without any of them stating whom they would be voting for.  They would then deliberate on who would be the best person for the job.  That would be returning to what the Founders intended.) [Read more…]

Voting for authoritarianism

Free and democratic societies, historically, come to an end when the people freely and democratically vote for an authoritarian leader to end freedom and democracy. (Think Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin. . . .)  Now Donald Trump is saying that he wants to limit the First Amendment by changing the libel laws so that journalists and others who write “negative” things can be punished.

Trump surely lacks the magnitude of those historical tyrants, but the public’s impulse to turn in time of disillusionment to “a strong leader” who will suspend their rights continues.

After the jump, George Will catalogues Trump’s authoritarian statements and calls establishment Republicans like Chris Christie who are now supporting him to account. [Read more…]

Original sin as the bedrock of democracy

More from Barton Swaim’s Wall Street Journal review of Reinhold Niebuhr’s  Major Works in Religion and Politics, explaining why the doctrine of original sin is necessary for a stable democracy. [Read more…]

Zombie democracy

Christopher Walker tells how authoritarian governments are trying to make themselves seem legitimate by constructing a facade of democracy, complete with (fixed) elections, (controlled) news organizations, and even government-sponsored non-governmental organizations, such as human rights groups, election monitors, and environmental groups–all of which work to make the dictators look good and are wreaking havoc in the U.N. and international conferences. [Read more…]


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