What Happens When Democracy is Diminished?

Insurrection at US Capital on 6 January 2021

Professor Joe Goldblatt

The Washington Post newspaper proudly adopted the slogan Democracy Dies in Darkness to define and illustrate their long history of investigative journalism that potentially peaked during the period known as Watergate. However, today, I believe there are three additional factors that are rapidly dimming the light of democracy in both the USA and the UK.

First and foremost, I recognise that more and more folk feel disenfranchised from their elected leaders and are therefore more unlikely to vote, campaign for a candidate, or even stand for public office. I believe this may be remedied with the introduction of civic or citizenship courses in high schools to educate our young people about their government and encourage them to become engaged citizens.

Second, over and over again I am aware that our judicial systems have become more involved with revising or overturning legislation that was democratically approved. Over and over again I hear our politicians ask as they develop new policies and potential laws if their final legislation will withstand judicial review. We must allow our politicians to do the work they were elected to do without constant fear of interference from the courts. The court, in my view should be a last resort to resolving disputes regarding the settled will of the people and should not be a revising chamber for every new law that is approved by our elected representatives.

Third and finally, we must immediately through education and civil discourse encourage citizens to agree to disagree and not disagree in a disagreeable and accusatory manner. Like many, I am very saddened by the historic loud and coarse low level of rhetoric being used by our politicians, our candidates, and certain members of the media. Rather than demonstrating respect, compassion, and a willingness to listen to opposing views, it seems that every conversation becomes a conflict.

Democracy functions best when the bright lights of education, understanding, and compassion shine more brightly through our elected officials, candidates, and media representatives due to education. In my view, it is time to turn the lights up to full bright and allow us to once again reflect Plato’s view of democracy as a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.

Unless we do this soon, democracy my indeed further diminish and even die due to the growing darkness caused by insidiuous authoritrians who seek to undermine the will of the people. Despite Plato’s belief that the common people were too uninformed to make intelligent decisions, I believe that he would agree that the answer is not to turn the lights off but rather to spread the light of education and understanding that will create better citizens who will vote, campaign, and govern in the future.

Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. His views are his own. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.