The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Imperative of Democracy

Election posters in Hamburg for Germany’s top three candidates for chancellor, August 31, 2021 (Fabian Bimmer / Reuters)

In my Impromptus column today, I begin with the Ryder Cup, and, in particular, the behavior of the fans — who cheer when someone on the other side hits a drive into the rough or misses a putt. Is that golf? Not in my book. “The trend of things,” I write, “is ever downward, it seems.”

I address a number of other issues too, not all of them gloomily. There is a streak of light or two. Several, actually, I think.

Let me paste an item about Germany, for the purpose of expanding on it, here in the Corner:

They have just held elections in Germany — genuine, democratic elections. This should not be taken for granted. German democracy is relatively new. Nazism and Communism are in the fairly recent German past.

I have very strong views on politics. I have rooting interests in elections — but mainly I root for elections. Genuine and democratic ones. The process — the system, the rule of law — is more important than the outcomes.

How long can Germany keep its democracy? Not forever, obviously, because nothing is forever, in this mortal, mutable world. But for a good long time, I hope. German democracy is good for Germany, good for Europe, good for the world.

Sean Wilentz, the Princeton historian, has published a highly valuable paper called “The 1619 Project and Living in Truth.” On Twitter, I said,

Once upon a time, I thought of Prof. Wilentz as a high-class defender of a low-class president (Bill Clinton). Now I think of him as, Sean Wilentz, Defender of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. A deep, deep bow to him (and he is free to disown my praise).

Another Princeton professor, Robert P. George, commented,

Jay, there has been a great sorting in academia. Truth-seekers, especially courageous ones like Sean, have found themselves united across the lines of partisan, religious, and other differences. They are Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, theists and atheists.

Allow me to tell a story. Many years ago, I was in Israel with some other American journalists. A couple of them wanted to argue with me about Israel: its security policies and so on. These journalists were of the center-Left, you could say. I begged off — whether it was fair of me or not. I said, “Look: You support the right of Israel to exist, I support the right of Israel to exist. Many, many people do not support that right. More than a few in this world want to kill off Israel altogether. As far as I’m concerned, you and I are friends and allies. We’re on the same side. The details are not nearly as important as the big picture, which is existential.”

I’m not sure these fellas were too happy with me, but they probably understood.

Obviously, I have very strong views on U.S. politics and policy. But, you know? If you believe in the American founding and our experiment and the perpetuation of our democracy — we are friends and allies (whether you like it or not). I do not take the perpetuation of our democracy for granted.

Recently, I was writing about Robert Middlekauff, the historian of colonial America, who passed away earlier this year. His history of the Revolution is called “The Glorious Cause.” (The phrase comes from George Washington.) The American revolutionaries, wrote Professor Middlekauff, “believed that their cause was glorious — and so do I.”

Yup. Again, for my Impromptus today, go here.

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