And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.Wait a second. Who better fits this description, Trump or Clinton? Let's break it down into its elements.
He is usually of the elite but has a nature in tune with the time — given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracy’s civil religion. He makes his move by “taking over a particularly obedient mob” and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. It’s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracy’s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excess—“too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery” — and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself.
And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw, looming above our heads, the pulsating, angry televised face of Donald Trump...
1) Being given over to pleasures and whims, especially food and sex.
2) Reveling in 'the nonjudgment that is democracy's civil religion.'
3) Attacks the rich and promises to fight for the poor, even though he (or she) is actually very much part of the wealthy class.
4) The wealthy elite seek a way to appease him or her.
5) Promises to cut through the paralysis and 'get things done.'
6) Offers a relief from democracy's choices.
7) Pledges to take on the elites above all.
Now I'll grant that (1) is a far better description of Trump than Clinton. But what of the rest? Is Trump "nonjudgmental"? That's not something I've heard before.
As for 3 and 4, who's the one who keeps promising to take on Wall Street even though she has grown quite wealthy? Who is the one who is paid off with massive speaking fees by the wealthy elite? By vast donations from oil-rich states who wanted to curry her favor as Secretary of State?
As for 5, who is the one who promises to be a "Progressive who Gets Things Done"? That was her big line from the first Democratic debate (that and being an enemy of Republicans).
Which of the two is promising to strip choices away from the democratic legislatures of the land? That's been the modus operandi of Clinton's faction since Roe v. Wade. It's how they've proceeded on all moral questions, in pursuit of this 'nonjudgment that is democracy's civil religion.' They have marched so far and so fast that whole sections of moral legislation are now declared to be unconstitutional, so that no democratic mechanisms can touch them.
As for the last one, which one is running as the candidate who will take on the 'one percent'? Which one is running as the candidate who will take on illegal aliens? They're not the elite.
Trump is a problem, but he's not the only problem. There's a demagogue in each of these races. Sullivan is clear on the danger Trump represents, but he is blind to the peril on the other front.