LTE: A Response to “The End of Democracy”

Joshua Behrens, The Heights’ resident Bernie Sanders cheerleader, wrote an astonishing piece yesterday, one about which all advocates for those American virtues of liberty and self-government should be angered. Though I have no desire to get myself again entangled in something like the relentless back-and-forth inspired by my LTEs on race issues earlier this year, Mr. Behrens’s piece is so extraordinary that I can’t help but write.

Mr. Behrens admits that “the founding fathers did not plan for us to have a democracy,” for which I suppose I can be thankful. Many individuals erroneously but unapologetically believe that the United States is a democracy and hold to “Democracy! Unchecked democracy! Democracy everywhere and always!” These people evidently do not value the virtue of prudent restraint, but maybe that is to be expected. Fine—Mr. Behrens agrees with us that the framers of our Constitution never intended a democracy. Yet his claim is even more offensive to the American spirit, I think, than the absurd belief that the United States is an unrestrained democracy (just so you know, our country is a constitutional republic with some democratic elements), so beloved of others of his progressive-liberal-radical bent.

Succinctly, he believes that, yes, the framers did not want democracy—and so the framers were wrong. The American’s mental warning-bells should be ringing like crazy here. So the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were wrong? The old argument for democracy grounded it, however erroneously, on our Constitution. The new argument, Mr. Behrens’s, grounds it on chucking the Constitution out the window and letting wild jackals eat the poor old thing.

Saying that the rest of Mr. Behrens’s argument is nonsensical is offensive to nonsensical arguments. We have to chuck the Constitution because it has created an “oligarchy” ruled by money (begging the question of “Why stop at socialism? Why don’t we go on to full-on Soviet communism, Mr. Behrens? Would that make you happy?”). He cites one Princeton study and claims that it “empirically” establishes something that cannot be empirically established, namely that the U.S. is in fact this oligarchy that he so greatly dreads. He then briefly sketches a look into this year’s presidential election, mounting a democratic defense of his beloved Sanders and warning about that opaque and apparently omnipotent “establishment” (could somebody please give me a good definition?).

Mr. Behrens does not believe in the founders’ republic. He wants a democracy. Well, Mr. Behrens, the founders experienced a near-democracy under the Articles of Confederation. It was a disaster. The Jacobins in France and the Bolsheviks in Russia slaughtered and destroyed nations in the sainted name of unrestrained democracy. (Might I suggest reading Burke?) We need to preserve and conserve, not destroy, our (small-r) republican values. We are either the last, best hope for the earth, Mr. Behrens, or else we go out into the final darkness, screaming hopeless platitudes about “Equality,” “Democracy,” and “Progress,” and not with a bang but with a whimper.

Karl Salzmann

MCAS ’19

Featured Image by Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

  • Anonymous Poster

    While I applaud you Karl, on your criticisms of the liberal progressive movement, I must ask you, do you believe that our current government is a proper form of government? I can easily make an argument that our Constitution is just as much, if not more of a disaster, than the Articles of Confederation were – especially since it has successfully created a government/society that brought on the evolution of the current ideologies of the liberal/progressives in which you cite. I would love to discuss this at greater length with you. The current Constitution is Godless and has lead to the relativistic secularism that is pervading our country.

    • Karl Salzmann

      Thank you for your reply. When I wrote this (more than a month ago already!), I hoped that others would step in and write about it. Curiously, I noticed during my first year at Boston College that conservatives do exist there (of course I’m now off for the summer) but that they’re too afraid to speak up due to the powerful liberal-progressive majority. I have tried to be a voice for these people because no one else will, and I’m going to keep on trying next year and, I hope, the rest of my time at BC as well.
      Anon., are you a student at BC? If so, I would be very welcome to have the debate out about the American government. To answer your questions, yes, I believe in the American constitution and will defend it, and my belief in its fundamental conservatism, to the best of my abilities. It is important, I think, to understand conservatism not as an ideology but as a state of mind more than anything. If you’re interested, Russell Kirk, the intellectual father of American traditionalist conservatism, wrote a lovely book called “The Roots of American Order” (1974) that shows how truly conservative the American founding really was.
      Thanks again for responding; I truly appreciate it and your support. Oremus pro invicem.
      Karl Salzmann