We all know that the United States is not a pure democracy. There are too many people for that. No, we have a representative democracy, as we have learned in school for centuries. We elect people who represent us in the Congress and the Presidency.
Since the excesses of the 19th Century, we have deplored the rise of an oligarchy of the rich, the captains of industry, who have amassed great power and wealth at the expense of others. Who, we might ask, has saved us from these immoral oligarchs who literally, or indirectly, have enslaved millions of us?
There are obvious heroes: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt to name three. They brought to a halt, or at least slowed, the rampant greed of materialistic oligarchs. They tamed the plutocrats.
Democracy won out, we reassure ourselves. Yet, aren't the oligarchs themselves the ones who rescued us-- the oligarchs who rose not because of money, or despite it, but because of their intelligence and experience? The guardian class, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and the guardian general Washington, have ruled wisely for the greater good. Not that they did not have selfish streaks, not that they were perfect, or even crime free. They were simply aware of a greater good, a benevolent goodness, for which they usually aimed.
Ironically, it was the most democratic of presidents and leaders who brought the greatest harm, starting with rabble-rouser Andrew Jackson, finally to be rightly ripped from the $20 bill. Wherever the mob gathers, there we must take caution. Beware all those militant rallies.
As the 2016 election unfurls, with flags of many colors, we might rethink whether there is such a thing as a good oligarchy. Call it an aristocracy -- not of the elite-- but of the best, of the most intelligent and most experienced. From Plato to Jimmy Carter, who wrote, Why not the Best, people have repeatedly faced a choice between the popular, entertaining, good old boy; and the boring, intelligent, not so entertaining, but dedicated candidate. Think Reagan for the former, Gore for the latter. Is the electorate wise enough to choose the better oligarchy, including those who will run the Senate and the House of Representatives? Or will voters go for entertainment and style, for the demagoguery of a pompous ass, or of the perfect democratic socialist, regardless of what lies ahead? Does the electorate even have the sense to care about Congress at all? We may find that oligarchy was far better than dictatorship and what it spawns.
The future is now.