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Tony Grist

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Democracy [Jul. 27th, 2016|11:02 am]
Tony Grist
A friend was complaining about the booing of "elder statesmen" at the Democratic National Convention. In the same letter she held up Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence and 19th century Britain as model democracies.

I wrote this in reply...

Democracy is a rough and tumble business. There's an episode in one of Trollope's novels where a guy wins an election because he withstands a barrage of rotten fruit and dead cats with more sang froid than his opponent. It seems to me that the behaviour of Bernie's people at the convention is fully in accord with that noble tradition. I don't know how Athenian legislators comported themselves but Florence was like a wild west town- and then some- with lots of street violence, knifings, assassinations. Smoothly-running, stage-managed political gatherings- with lots of respect accorded to elder statesmen- is what one expects from dictatorships.
Freedom means freedom to behave badly or rudely as well as with exquisite manners. If Athens and Florence and 19th century Britain were creative and progressive it's partly because their people were at liberty to throw dead cats around.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-07-27 12:29 pm (UTC)
The United States has gone through periods of dignified electoral politics. I can think of 1789-1801, and 1945-1965. That's about it, though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-07-27 12:43 pm (UTC)
Those were both periods that followed on from eras of turbulence and conflict. Perhaps people were too weary to throw cats.

The post-war era was fairly sedate in Britain too. And then came the wave of political satire- Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams, David Frost et al- and things have been boisteous ever since.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2016-07-27 12:36 pm (UTC)
These days there are not too many dead cats at hand to throw around, but I like this reply.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-07-27 12:45 pm (UTC)
I guess that's progress, that dead cats are no longer available for purposes of political debate.
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From: cmcmck
2016-07-27 01:44 pm (UTC)
Yes!

Eatanswill anyone?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-07-27 05:24 pm (UTC)
Or Hogarth's election paintings?
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[User Picture]From: charliemc
2016-07-27 09:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there's high emotions surrounding politics -- and it's always been true!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-07-28 08:48 am (UTC)
I think a certain degree of rowdiness and disrespect is a sign of political health.
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[User Picture]From: charliemc
2016-07-29 05:53 am (UTC)
Absolutely!
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2016-07-28 03:01 am (UTC)
Don't forget: we're not a democracy. We're a republic.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-07-28 08:47 am (UTC)
True democracy- defined as a state of affairs in which the people vote on every issue- without the intervention of elected representatives- is surely impractical in anything but a small city state.

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