This ignores the deterministic question unleashed by Plato’s ponderings about democracy—whether it inevitably breeds tyranny because of inevitable internal decay.
The neoconservative thinker Irving Kristol put it well in debunking Francis Fukuyama’s harebrained thesis that, after the Cold War, the world had reached “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Said Kristol: “I don’t believe a word of it.” Citing Aristotle, he argued that “all forms of government—democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, tyranny—are inherently unstable…all political regimes are inherently transitional…the stability of all regimes is corrupted by the corrosive power of time.” But if we are to explore this troubling reality against the backdrop of America’s current political breakdown and civic disharmony, we might do better to bounce off Plato’s philosophical musings and go to the real world, where the lessons seem starker.
In each instance this included divided powers, temporary and checked executive prerogative, legislative authority, and a voting franchise making government at least somewhat answerable to citizens.
Each began its democratic phase with serious limitations but opened up the system to greater democratic access over time.
Fagan—that lasted nearly a century before Julius Caesar finally killed the republic and re-instituted the kings of old in the form of emperors whose title bore his name. It may be instructive, even a bit stunning, to ponder the parallels between Rome’s early history and America’s.
Both began as outposts of their respective core civilizations.
As Callahan points out, both ends of the political spectrum likened their opponents to Caesar, with Hamilton fearing that Jefferson’s populist appeal to the masses rendered him a potential autocrat, while Jefferson saw hints of a coming dictatorship in Hamilton’s advocacy of a strong central government.
Mary Beard, in her excellent book, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, emphasizes that the Romans likely didn’t sit down and craft their republic within a brief time, in the mold of America’s “miracle at Philadelphia” in the summer of 1787.And so the elites must “thwart this monster” so those multitudes can’t flock to him.“In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order,” writes Sullivan, “Trump is an extinction-level event.Indeed, the Founders despised Caesar and wished to prevent forever any such usurper from emerging in America.To be called a Caesar was a calumny in those times, whereas to be compared to his opponents, even his assassins Brutus and Cassius, was a mark of approbation.