Resident evil

Why Americans should have read Plato before voting and a warning to us all

“Trump put fascism on the ballot this year, and millions of people said “yes.”

“The populist begins as the people’s champion; later, having tasted power, he becomes their tyrant.”

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t read very much of “the Classics” – a few quotes perhaps, some articles about Plato and Socrates here and there. So I was fascinated to read this article at Vox:

The people’s tyrant: what Plato can teach us about Donald Trump by Sean Illing.

I encourage you to go to the Vox site; it is absolutely worth reading Illing’s piece in full. Some excerpts:

“Plato thought political regimes followed a predictable evolutionary course, from oligarchy to democracy to tyranny. Oligarchies give way to democracies when the elites fail, when they become spoiled, lazy, profligate, and when they develop interests apart from those they rule.

“Democracies give way to tyrannies when mob passion overwhelms political wisdom and a populist autocrat seizes the masses. But the tyrant is not quite a tyrant at first. On the contrary, in a democracy the would-be tyrant offers himself as the people’s champion. He’s the ultimate simplifier, the one man who can make everything whole again.

Sound familiar?

“With Trump, we have a glimpse of what this sort of evolution looks like: A vulgar right-wing populism emerges out of a whirlwind of anti-establishment hysteria; a strongman fascist promises to stick it to the elites and says only he can make the country great again; he gives the people a familiar boogeyman, some alien other, on whom they can dump their resentment.”

“An oligarchy is a regime in which the rich have power and the poor are deprived of it. A democracy is a system of maximal freedom in which the people hold sway. And tyranny is rule by one man, who is both unjust and unqualified.”

“A democratic tyrant slips into power by dint of deception: He is usually rich, but he carries himself as a commoner. “In the early days of his power,” Plato writes, “he is full of smiles, and he salutes every one whom he meets … making promises in public and also in private, liberating debtors, and distributing land to the people and his followers, and wanting to be so kind and good to everyone.”

“But the honeymoon is brief. The populist begins as the people’s champion; later, having tasted power, he becomes their tyrant.”

Article by Vox:

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