This essay will examine some of the core conditions that are required for democracy to flourish. The essay will first consider the “Political awakening”, its importance to the right possession of democratic values, and possible side-effects of its failure. Whereas, the second part will go on to describe Aristotle views towards the existence of a state and its role for the good of citizens; the same part will also explain why the rule of law is more important before the rule of individual citizens. The third part covers the Rousseau opinion on the “General will” and its similarity of Aristotle’s ideology. For the final part, I will attempt to apply those philosophical ideologies on the most recent political developments in the US; Whereas, the first part will focus on Joseph McCarthy, and his political movements in the 1950s of America, and in the second part I will make a comparison McCarthy and Donald Trump, and underline their common approaches to the politics.
First of all, before attempting the answer to the main question, I would like to note that, not a single democratic state in the modern era can be considered to be totally democratic; Therefore, our only option is to seek how close we are at a correct practicing of the democratic principles. We know many philosophers from the remotest periods, and their suggestions about the core conditions for Democracy to flourish. They have pointed out that success of democracy within a state is based upon the participation of the citizens within the government actions, as well as important pre-conditions for a healthy production of democracy, such are: Education, Freedom, Equality, Law and many others. Despite all, political awakening is essential among the citizens to make a successful democratic way of living. When a state is lacking in terms of political awakening, it leads to the failure of understanding political problems, citizens are unable to understand the political and economic problems, and that is why their decisions turn out to be wrong sometime. In other words, “Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is; the people is never corrupted, but it is often deceived” (The Social Contract, book II, ch. 3).
According to Aristotle, the purpose of the state existence is the good of the individuals. Thus, based on that occasion he puts the rule of law before the rule of any individual citizen. That can be explained in the view that unlike the state, a man has its private interests while laws do not. He was the first philosopher who divided the powers into three different parts; executive, legislative and judicial forms. Through the separation of powers, the society is given the ability to reject and avoid possible dangers of turning the democracy into its radical forms (Aristotle. and Everson 1).
On the other hand, Rousseau has also the same opinion on the general will. He concludes that the idea of general will has to be implied as a consensus of citizens interests. Therefore, the general wills are the basis of organized society, which must be reflected in the common laws. Just as Aristotle, Rousseau also notes that individuals have their own interests, but those interests can be summed in the way where they become beneficial for a general good, and thus, the general will can be turned into the service of general good.
“There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will. The latter looks only to the common interest; the former considers private interest and is only a sum of private wills. But take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel each other out, and the remaining sum of the differences is the general will.” (The Social Contract, book II, ch. 3).
Rousseau assumes that citizens have a moral value, that enables them to work and produce a general good and welfare. He sees the human morality as a natural inherent, but according to Rousseau, citizens would not act morally if they were not raised in the right way, without education.
In regards to the topic, I would like to discuss upcoming political changes in the US. After the WW2, there has only been one serious challenge in the US democratic way of living. The Senator Joseph McCarthy and his political views in the dark period of 1950s, when him and his political allies started hunting against to alleged and imagined communist supporters, which later was resulted in the stifled civil liberties and wrecked lives of many innocent people. The scar that McCarthy has left on the American Democracy was so rooted that over decades his name has been associated as the unscrupulous mobilization of fear and intolerance for extremist political ends. McCarthy was a clear example of how a man can achieve a political advantage through of making provocative, careless, and unverified claims about the character and patriotism of others. His ideas were not based on democratic principles but more towards ideological extremism (Diamond, 2016). Therefore, the peoples support to him can be explained in the way where citizens are not possessing the enough knowledge and are not involved in political activities, therefore they are lacking in terms of participation.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has also been found using the same extremist approach to win the hearts of the voters. Since the beginning, Trump campaign was based and directed towards stroking hysteria about illegal immigration, drugs and crime from Mexico, sexual abuse of women and of course Muslims viewed as terrorists (Diamond, 2016). Despite all of those anti-democratic statements, he was still able to win the elections; and that is a sign of the trouble democracy is facing in the US. However, what is important is that; despite Trumps victory over his anti-democratic statements, those statements at some degree are seen to be relevant, however Trump is not more of a solution for those problems than any other candidate, in fact we can conclude that his victory was due to the high skills of manipulation and demagogy he is possessing so well. Citizens have voted for him not because his future success is inevitable, but because he says that what voters want to hear; the during his presidency the US will gain the power and become “The Great” again. In regards to this, Rousseau has noted that, when we are participating in general elections, we must not vote for what we want personally, but our priority has to be the general will. Therefore, in a healthy state, the final outcome of the elections should approach unanimity (The Social Contract, book II, ch. 3). Whereas, in the modern US, the public opinion is divided into two parts, and the loser side is slightly behind the winner (Alexandra Sims, 2016).
To conclude, what are the conditions required for democracy to flourish?! I have answered that; As well as education, freedom, equality, law and other pre-conditions, the political awakening is also important in order to keep citizens in charge of relevant political activities, which enables them to make a useful decision for the general good. That the rule of law is more important than other’s individual interests. Therefore, the general wills are the basis of organized society, which must be reflected in the common laws. Based on those concepts, I have applied the same conditions on the American way of democracy, and its failure in the periods of 1950s, where Joseph McCarthy achieved his political advantages through the making unverified claims about the fake patriotism. Which turned out to be sufficient to mislead the people. And the similarities between his and Donald Trump’s political campaigns.
- Aristotle, and Stephen Everson. The Politics. 1st ed. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques and G. D. H Cole. The Social Contract. 1st ed. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, Inc., 1950. Print.
- Diamond, Larry. “It Could Happen Here”. The Atlantic. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
- Alexandra Sims, Andrew Buncombe. “White People Won It For Donald Trump”. The Independent. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.