"Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven," as the rebellious Satan told his assembled host of fallen angels in Milton'sParadise Lost. These words are a comfort to the progressive left and ought to be engraved above the infernal gateway to the plantations of liberalism in America -- for who among the least thinking of that thoughtless cult would not agree that it is better to dwell in the lesser world of a centralized, politically correct totalitarian state than to suffer the burdens of individual responsibility in the cause of a free, self-governing democratic society?
The study of popular forms of government all too often proves a history of usurpations. Democracy endures in the mind, as an ideal state; but like a pure element of reactive material, it cannot exist on this political earth without degrading rapidly into a lesser substance. That is why progressives now speak so highly of democratic forms of government, for they contain within their spheres the conditions and elements necessary to their own overthrow. Since Marx, leftists have considered popular democratic governments to be short-lived precursor states, especially when guided by laissez-faire free market interests, that must collapse, through revolutionary principles, into totalitarian steady-state command and control structures.
The idyllic phrase "liberal democracy" sounds the very essence of classic liberalism and Western democracy but is now, in fact, private code for socialism. Progressives understand its revised theoretical meaning, while maintaining in their fraud the rhetoric of traditional democratic values and institutions. Post-modern liberalism, in its political sense, and even in its best articulation, is not a philosophy of government at all, but rather a disease of reason that argues for the worst in us to overcome the best in us. It is a thought-ending reaction to the constraints placed upon government by conservative principles. It is, fundamentally, an apology for despotism.
Liberalism is not liberalism. The word cancels its own meaning. Liberalism is no longer defined by its original core principle of the individual's freedom from coercive power; and the new template is difficult even for liberals to explain, for its message is written in water. Liberal culture changes as often as the political seasons -- its activists will blow hot when they want power and they will blow cold once they have acquired it. Their language has nothing to do with classical liberalism, which declared that any prohibition on freedom must be justified. Rather, it has assumed a new social dialect, arguing the case for a strictly egalitarian concept of justice, one that establishes a new entitlement class to be maintained by the state and farmed for its votes.
Nothing remains of the philosophical defense of freedom in postmodern liberalism. The protection of democratic values and institutions, however, requires that guarantee. Equality and freedom under law are correlative principles of justice, and neither can stand apart from the idea of America without undermining democratic process. Conservatives raise this understanding of justice even as the left try to take it down, and this conflict over power is the immediate cause of our current political stasis.
Political ideologies interfere with the nation's shared commitment to basic democratic values. According to leftist teaching, democracies waste political energy. The progressive ideal attempts to eliminate America's two-party system because it draws personal allegiances and enthusiasm away from the state to be squandered on partisan loyalty, patriotism, and unnecessary compromises. The political order it would establish is not a democracy; nor is it a free society, nor is it any form of self-government. The left would create the lesser world: an entitlement culture in which a functioning democracy is not possible -- one in which votes are exchanged for subsistence, one in which political identity serves the function of social achievement, and one in which the individual must ask the state's permission to pursue his or her personal interests and career opportunities.
The idea of liberal democracy is not a fixed point in the intellectual firmament but changes as the nature of liberalism changes. Leftists have sought to destroy the institutions of society through their activism and a persistent redefinition of terms; and they are attempting a similar transformation to the values and institutions of democracy. But an equitable system of popular government cannot improvise upon free and fair elections; nor can it choose the winners in a contest of free speech. It cannot create buffer zones and safe spaces for political hatred. It cannot disrespect the nation's borders. It cannot create sanctuaries for the lawless. It cannot punish the many with laws that reward the few. It cannot choose the statutes it wishes to enforce as though they were items on a menu of justice. It cannot create social equality by destroying freedom. It cannot lie to the people with impunity. It cannot speak democracy as it prepares for despotism; nor can it erase America's founding principles from our nation's memory. Just, reasonable, and honest government -- conservative government -- accountable to the people, cannot do these things; but activist liberal government, divorced from the consent of the governed and abandoned to its trivial pursuit of power accomplishes these things with the confidence that comes of systemic arrogance.
The left's interest in democracy extends only to the political opportunities available for its overthrow. Those who attempt to overturn the results of a national election may rightly be called the enemies of democracy. Following upon the 2016 election, liberals can no longer afford to trust a system of government that allows the people to remove them from power. Should the Democrats ever regain sufficient control over the apparatus of government, we can anticipate further attempts upon the electoral process and upon key structural elements in the Constitution -- most notably its Separation of Powers provision -- as well as a complete disregard of the nation's immigration laws, and a final expansion of federal programs designed solely to create a permanent entitlement class of citizens and non-citizens. And in a reckless act of appeasement to cultural diversity, we can also expect progressives to incorporate Sharia courts, which deny equal protection to Muslim women and children, into the nation's practice of common law -- a curse of nonuniformity upon the justice system that owes nothing to statute and which, once invoked, will never be exorcised, thus opening America's democratic institutions to the most pernicious of foreign interests and intrusions.
The Constitution created our form of government and established the foundation for our nation's laws, but even that instrument cannot impose wisdom upon government. Strict adherence to progressive doctrine cannot hold that necessary degree of understanding and moral intelligence. To be wrong in doctrine is to be wrong always. Through recent elections, the nation has disposed of many bad legislators, but it is not as easy to rid the nation of the bad laws they made that place our freedoms outside the Constitution's protections. These legislative foundations are still largely intact, awaiting the next liberal administration to further advance the project. Much confidence therefore remains among the political left that Americans shall in time organize in the belief that the government must provide for them, that they will develop such narcotic dependency on the state for their subsistence that the state itself becomes invulnerable to correction; and that the people, no longer capable of self-government, would be unable to return to original principles -- nor would they be permitted to wonder that they ever should.
Liberalism, in its postmodern political sense, is the argument for a statist command and control system. This is what the meaning of liberal democracy has become under the influence of an invasive and destructive ideology of power. We have experienced, under the Obama administration, the first shapes of a totalitarian state in embryo. Every foundation was laid for a vast system of centralized government, beginning with the nation's health care structure and proceeding through innovations to finance, immigration, education, the rule of law, and an infinite range of regulatory "reforms" to the private sector. Until this hour, we have taken little note of the progressive usurpation of our country, even as we watched the agencies of government intruding by slow degrees into every corner of our lives. But soon enough, the rule-weaving enterprise emerged from darkness, and every left-wing proscription upon freedom was exposed. The socialist scaffold arises from fallen stones, and every Democratic administration elected because of our inattention adds one more level to the completion of a new despotic order.
The untamed progressive mind follows in the spirit of Ares -- the Greek god of war, the Olympian god most hated by Zeus -- delighting in revolution and the destruction it brings. Socialism means destruction, invoking the brutal nature of violent reform in its social and political disguises as the most effective means of securing centralized power to the state. A return to conservative democracy -- towards original principles, towards the ideal of self-government, towards the correlative principles of equality and freedom under law, towards a reaffirmation of the separation of powers, and towards free and fair elections unpolluted by the tribal prejudices, the hatred and the dishonesty characteristic of liberal politics is the one course available to us in resolving our present stasis. Socialism is a word inherent to the postmodern fraud of liberal democracy, and interested, free-thinking Americans will always fear the popular speech that makes either or both possible.
Philip Ahlrich can be reached for comment at email@example.com.