Democracy has a dirty lil problem that too many people tiptoe around. The Founders tried to ward against it with a design of representative democracy that allowed states to limit the franchise–with both good and bad results–and by making the only national office that was prescriptively designed as a popularly-elected post the post of Representative in the House. (The Senate posts were left to the states to fill pretty much as they wished, so some were by popular election, most by legislative appointment, etc.) The problem the Founders were trying to limit?
“In a democracy (‘rule by mob’), those who refuse to learn from history are usually in the majority and dictate that everyone else suffer for their ignorance.”–third world county’s corollary to Santayana’s Axiom
This corollary can also be stated as, “Stupid, ignorant, greedy people invariably ruin democracy for everyone else.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset noted something similar in his prophetic 1929 work, “The Revolr of the Masses,” when he noted (my extremely inadequate paraphrase/précis) that the trend in democratization was toward the coarsening of society, and indeed, that has proven to be the case. He essentially argued that those blessed with the material, mental, educational and moral blessings of modern civilization (without using these terms at ALL *heh*) had a responsibility to convey the essentially Neoclassical (architecture, literary and graphic arts)/Classical (musical arts) principles of
to the masses, but that increasing democratization militated against civilizing influences. That, sadly, has proven to be the case. Many of those in our society who have been blessed with many advantages of education, material and mental resources have instead bent their advantages to greedily (and stupidly, when one thinks beyond one’s own immediate aggrandizement) manipulating the baser desires of the masses to seek an increasingly lower “lowest common denominator” to define society’s norms. Unfortunately, the defining of society’s norms by encouraging lower and lower standards and practices also tends to dumb down any putative elite as well, and the cycle becomes a vicious spiral to decay if not checked and actively reversed.
Strangely, to some (and even perhaps to those with Ortega’s mind set ;-)), the encouragement of critical thought, the inculcation and spread of Classical Values can only be found easily in the grassroots “bourgeois” leadership in the populist TEA Party movements (note the plural). Prominent “leaders” of the movement? Notsomuch, unfortunately. IMO, one finds the brightest, best-educated leaders of the populist movement with the highest ethical and moral standards on the local level.
And that local level could be the salvation of American democracy, even American representative democracy.
For further reading on how this could work, see Robert A. Heinlein’s “Take Back Your Government” for principles/strategies one can help implement. (Heinlein’s specific tactics may be a bit dated, but the strategies are applicable, IMO, and the tactics he advocates could be easily adapted to a 21st-Century political battlefield.)