Vox: Is American Democracy Really In Peril?

No, American democracy isn’t in peril.

No one is proposing to do away entirely with electoral democracy. Even when the Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy, electoral democracy continued unabated. The same is true of liberalism. Even the Confederates basically copied the U.S. Constitution.

It is the parameters of liberalism and democracy that have been contested and have been in flux over time. I would recommend reading Philip A. Klinker and Rogers Smith’s prescient book, The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America. or Colin Woodard’s Union: The Struggle To Forge United States Nationhood. The arc of American history always bends toward reaction for much longer periods of time.

Basically, the American Revolution unleashed a brief period of political egalitarianism. This was followed by the onset of a much longer period of reaction which lasted until the War Between the States. Free blacks had citizenship in some states like Pennsylvania and voting rights in some states like North Carolina that were lost in the early 19th century. The War Between the States and Reconstruction era was followed by a much longer period of reaction which lasted until World War II. Finally, the geopolitical circumstances of World War II and the Cold War led to a much longer sustained burst of political egalitarianism that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which is now predictably giving way to a much longer period of reaction. The truth is that the United States has never been able to sustain political egalitarianism or what Zack would call “racial justice” in the absence of a major war between White people.

Seen in this light, everything that is happening is completely normal because we are now a generation removed from the Cold War. The Senate, Electoral College and Supreme Court are operating normally and doing what they were designed to do. The demise of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is reminiscent of the defeat of Henry Cabot Lodge’s Force Act of 1890. White people are becoming less progressive and more assertive on race. It is hardly the first time this has happened in American history.

As I attempted to explain to Thomas Main, the United States has not always really been a “liberal democracy.” We’ve had variants of “liberalism” and “democracy” since the American Revolution in different degrees in different regions of the country, but “liberal democracy” is of much more recent vintage. Generally speaking, America in the Early Republic or antebellum era became less racially and culturally progressive outside of our Eastern states where slavery was abolished. Similarly, America became less racially and culturally progressive in the late 19th century and early 20th century outside of our Eastern states. The Western states had a milder version of Jim Crow until the 1940s and 1950s.

The term “liberal democracy” only came to be associated with the United States in the FDR era. The New Deal coalition, which collapsed generations ago, was its political foundation. Most Americans who lived through World War II have died out now. It was their life experience that shaped our politics. The norm throughout the vast majority of American history has been regional divergence on race, sex and gender. America’s ability to dictate its preferences to the rest of the world is even more a passing phase.

Progressives are delusional about this. They believe that history itself is on their side. It is inevitable that the rest of America and the rest of the world too will be remade in their own image. History moves in a straight line toward them. It is a fairy tale that is based on a bad reading of Hegel. Look at every previous ruling class or empire that has gone to its grave.

When I look at New York and our coastal elites who live there, I see a place that is rapidly declining relative to the rest of the country and the world. It is a place that was much more important a century ago than it is today. It is now in the twilight of its influence. It is losing its empire. I think the country became much more like New York in the 20th century because the public were passive consumers of mass media and cultural trends which were created there. The liberal media was hegemonic. There is nothing hegemonic though anymore about the “mainstream media.” It is coastal media now.

Coastal media looks out at the rest of the country from their perches in New York and DC. It sees the rise of the “far right” and the rise of “illiberalism” and the imminent death of American democracy. It assumes its own perspective is or should be normative. Another way of looking at it is that these people have been discredited and have lost their legitimacy and the country is shrugging them off and moving on from them and “liberalism” and “democracy” is reverting to the way it used to be out there.

Folks who live in Iowa or Texas or Alabama have their own idea of what “liberalism” and “democracy” should be. They don’t support abolishing the filibuster, the Senate, the Electoral College or packing the Supreme Court for the sole purpose of empowering the libtards who live in big cities on the coasts. They support Voter ID laws. They don’t support giving illegal aliens or felons the right to vote. They don’t support federalizing our elections. They don’t support making temporary COVID changes permanent. Maybe they think it is too easy to vote or that our culture has declined.

New York City’s preference would be maximum freedom for child drag queens like Desmond is Amazing, cosmopolitanism, censorship, gun control, vaccine passports, giving illegal aliens voting rights, defunding the police and denying COVID therapeutics to White people on the basis of equity. Iowans would prefer more political free speech and less “trans” and more transparent elections and fewer toppled statues of Thomas Jefferson.

The long and short of it is this: American democracy isn’t going anywhere, but what it looks like and its parameters depends a lot on who has the cultural whip in the hand and what the life experience of most people in the country has been.



  1. As a lover of history, I enjoy your history chops HW. I agree and don’t think we are a DEMOCRACY IN PERIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But I can’t wait until we rid this country of the victimhood con and re-emphasize personal responsibility. I won’t trust elections again until the vote by mail bullshit is drastically reduced at level to where only the elderly and crippled can use this format while the rest of the actual citizens get off their fat asses and vote in person if they want a part of it. Elections must conclude in 1 day, not a month long circle jerk to gather votes, such an obvious scam. The 2020 election was a farce.

  2. Confuses the importance of democracy (a luxury good with quiestionble value and all historical evidence against it) with the importance of self determination by self determined means that we imprecisely call sovereignty(political), liberty(economic), and freedom (individual). And worse, oversetaing the value of democracy understantes the rule of law of the natural law of self determiniation by self determined means, by reciprocal insurance , by force of arms, of that self determination, by the guarranty of sovereignty in demonstrated interests, reciprocity in display word and deed, limiting us to truth before face(self), duty before self, loyalty before self, and reciprocity in display word and deed, and the total prohibition on authority. The result of course is competition (markets) in all aspects of life, thus producing an open market for rule, goverment, economy, and society by the best competitors in those markets. ANd as such the rate of evolutionary innovation adaptation and application is unique to western civilization. IN other words, democracy is only meaningful if it is meritocratic and earnd, and earnd by reciprocal insurance in display word and deed of all others willing to do so. This is why democracy requires chariots, cavalry, spear, phalanx, bowmen, and especially rifles: becuase all men have an equal ability and interest to preserve their soverignty along with that of others. SO the first ‘right’ is the right, responsibilty and inalienability to bear arms such that our insurance of one another, can produce the luxury of participatory government as an externality.

Comments are closed.