Day By Day

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Demagogue

Writing in National Affairs, Henry Olson discusses the nature and meaning of populism, citing the classical authorities that defined the applicable terms and concepts. Here he is on Aristotle: 
In the Politics, Aristotle defines a demagogic democracy as one in which "the decrees of the assembly override the law" and a popular faction "takes the superior share in the government as a prize of victory." The people's leader, the demagogue, incites them to pursue such despotism through extravagant rhetoric, playing on the people's basest desires and fears. The result is laid out ominously in Plato's Republic: The people — "an obedient mob" — "set up one man as their special leader...and make him grow great." The masses take the property of the wealthy to redistribute it among themselves; the people's enemies, meanwhile, are charged with crimes and banished from the city (or worse).
Read the whole thing here.

Lets see now, who on the current political scene has used extravagant rhetoric to rouse a mob of mindless and obedient followers, has overridden legal precedent with executive orders, has used the justice department to go after political foes, has declared that because "we won" the opposition should shut up and get out of the way, and has used the politics of fear to force through an unpopular agenda?

Just sayin'.

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