17 November 2020

Alistair Kitchen: “The sad, joyful truth of democracies is that they are held together with sticky tape and goodwill. They are the result of symbiotic, mutualistic behaviour between participants who, from day to day, operate as enemies, but when the time comes find faith in one another. Functioning democratic states are not simply the result of laws. They are made up of laws, and conventions, and norms, and practices, and sheer, sheer, unadorned faith. All of these are necessary to liberal democracy. The Republican Party knows this and takes advantage of it. The choice from the Republican Party and its propaganda arm, Rupert Murdoch’s media apparatus, to act against these foundational requirements of democracy has given it a structural advantage in our political culture. And the failure of liberals to understand the extent of that bad faith — to be fooled over and over again — has allowed this anti-democratic spirit to run unchecked. Their failure to reaffirm the value of democracy, which has its expression in egalitarianism, has allowed that shared simultaneous commitment to dwindle in our political culture. No democracy can survive without it. It is after all because of, rather than in spite of, the fragility of US democracy that Americans insist their system is imbued with ‘checks and balances’. But it must not disappoint us that the life or death of what we call liberal democracy will depend not on laws but on that irresolute quality of human beings, faith. Instead the beautiful fragility of this system asks that we are clear-eyed in our view of those who act against its spirit.”