Paradoxes of Democracy

The more I read about democracy, the more paradoxical democracy seems…

Scandals grip democracies while systemic failings get overlooked. Democracies lack a sense of perspective. This produces repeated crisis as mistakes mount up. But it also enables democracies to escape from crisis, because no single mistake is ever conclusive. Democracies continue to adjust, adapt, and find a way through. This process is not pretty, and it creates a pervasive feeling of disappointment. In crises there is always the hope that something more fundamental will be revealed. The search goes out for real democracy, the true story concealed behind the mess of democratic life. This quest is invariably fruitless. The confusion that produces the crisis the same confusion that dissolves it over time. Alongside the disappointment and frustration comes a lingering sense of complacency. Democracies survive their mistakes. So the mistakes keep coming. (pp. 293-4)


democratic citizens demand, contradictorily, that their leaders be faithful servants who do their bidding but that they nevertheless demonstrate strong and capable leadership. This permanent ambiguity compels democratic leaders to assume a posture of habitual deference to the sovereign people even when they are undertaking strong acts of leadership. (p. 74)

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