Cory Leonard

The End of America, a la Trump (Explained by Plato)

In politics on July 27, 2016 at 11:41 pm


In case you missed it, this is one of the best bigthink pieces from Andrew Sullivan in a long time, and for internet time, this is already old. But it gets passed around because it is that good–and particularly prescient, especially in the postmortem of the RNC Conference.

Plato, of course, was not clairvoyant. His analysis of how democracy can turn into tyranny is a complex one more keyed toward ancient societies than our own (and contains more wrinkles and eddies than I can summarize here). His disdain for democratic life was fueled in no small part by the fact that a democracy had executed his mentor, Socrates. And he would, I think, have been astonished at how American democracy has been able to thrive with unprecedented stability over the last couple of centuries even as it has brought more and more people into its embrace. It remains, in my view, a miracle of constitutional craftsmanship and cultural resilience. There is no place I would rather live. But it is not immortal, nor should we assume it is immune to the forces that have endangered democracy so many times in human history.

Source: America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny — NYMag

Dothat opined on this when it came out and when Trump was still a novelty, not a cruel populist joke. (“If the republic is lucky, such a figure simply couldn’t exist”). But others saw Sullivan’s framing of Trump in Platonic terms–as elites v. uneducated–as wrongheaded and even “dangerous,” with others struggling to engage with Sullivan’s longform arguments.


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