A Political Fairy Tale

Once there was a democracy that had lost its way. Two irreconcilable views of government were tearing it apart. The first maintained that a democracy should be about more than creature comforts. A soulless democracy can also have such things. A true democracy, however, was about much more than this.

It has to do with life’s imponderables, the things of the spirit, the sacrosanct nature of each human person as an end in itself, not as a beast of burden to be used, exploited, and then cast aside. It has to do with human rights, equality, care for its poor and children, its sick and aged, ideals and values that make life worth living.

Food, clothing, shelter, and health care for all are also essential, but until that happens, it is not a democracy despite sumptuous dining, costly apparel, and mansions for the few.

What makes a democracy are old-fashioned virtues like compassion and kindness, concern for others and the common good, fairness and decency and social justice, for where there is justice, there is no need for charity.

These ideals cannot be measured for they are the measure of everything else that goes to the heart of what it means to be human and what makes life worth living for: the values that sustain a free people as civilized beings and give their lives joy.

Once a democracy loses its reverence for the human person, no matter what creed or color, ethnicity or lifestyle, it loses its soul, forsakes its humanity, and is already dead — however impressive its GNP. The infallible sign of a true democracy is the deepest concern for morality about every aspect of human existence for people come first, last, and always.

Enter Thrasymachus


The second view of democracy mocks at all this. It ignores everyone save the Rich and Powerful for they alone matter since democracy is their slave, ensuring that only they prosper, spending little on the people, but billions on themselves.

The people see this government as waging class war against them, and as more dangerous than any foreign enemy met in the field. One wonders why anyone but the Rich and Powerful would vote for these leaders, since this is their creed:

The world is a slaughterhouse in which the Poor and the Sick, the Weak and the Helpless, the Aged and Children should go to the wall. They are expendable and a burden on the Rich and Powerful, who alone rule the Earth.

Who decides what is moral?

The Rich and the Powerful!

What, then, is moral?

Whatever increases their riches and power!

And the justification for saying this?

Their Riches and Power! Whatever advances their interests is moral, for the law of life is the law of the jungle! There is no objective morality, just the eternal silence of an indifferent universe. 

Thus spoke, in paraphrase, the sophist Thrasymachus and his heirs down the ages in Plato’s Republic, Book One. In essence, this is his case to Socrates in this Dialogue, which has been read and pondered for 24 centuries. It is the argument of “Might Makes Right” that threatens every democracy that ever existed.

How keep Thrasymachus and his kind from coming to power? This is a problem that has never been solved for if the people are enchanted by his sweet-sounding promises, they will make him their leader, and he will destroy their democracy. He lives only in the moment with no thought for tomorrow and cares nothing for the devastation he leaves in his wake.

He and his enablers are Social Darwinians with no concern for the people whom they see as inferior and the world as a jungle of the survival of the Richest. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who prey on the weak. They want luxury for themselves in their gated communities, and penury and misery for others outside their gates. They are psychopaths for their lack of empathy toward those living now and for future generations, to whom they will leave a dead planet.

Books Eight and Nine deal with this Tyrant, who begins as a demagogue beguiling the people because they are oppressed by the Rich and the laws that protect them. They have bribed those in government to ignore the people, who want a Strong Man to lead and protect them.

Enter the Demagogue, who tells them that he alone can help them, be their Savior, and make their Country Great Again. Spellbound, the people make him their Leader, but, once in power, he turns on them and becomes a Tyrant, who stops at nothing to have his own way.

We have seen him before in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany where a free press is silenced and replaced with lies. Americans can see the same thing happening on Fox News.

If Thrasymachus and his GOP enablers come to power in 2024, this is what they will do: Slash health care, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment and Accident Insurance, and food stamps for the poor. How the elderly, grandmothers, grandfathers, the sick, starving and homeless will survive is impossible to say since after shredding this safety net, these GOP leaders will divert those billions to the Rich and Powerful themselves, whose taxes will be lowered while those of everyone else will be raised.

Regulations on gun ownership, consumer protection, workplace safety, pollution, and climate change will all be rolled back, making life for Americans increasingly precarious and our planet unlivable when your children and grandchildren come of age.

Just reflect for a moment what kind of leaders would do this to those they have taken an oath to protect? What kind of human beings would impose such suffering on over three hundred million of their fellow citizens? Once you grasp the scope and magnitude of what will begin to happen in only two years, you will realize the nightmare that will descend on America.

Regarding global warming about which these new leaders will do nothing, only you and other young people can stop this from happening, since those responsible for unleashing this catastrophe will all be dead. The alternative is trying to survive for your descendants on an uninhabitable planet.

Voters in a democracy take pride in electing leaders who will protect and defend them. However, what they forget is that democracy is only an ideal, and ideals change nothing in this world unless there are men and women in government who themselves embody those ideals and are willing to risk their lives to protect them.

Our democracy must be carefully guarded by those you choose as your leaders, especially when it is under attack by a would-be dictator. To prevent this from happening, voters must choose their leaders from the best kind of people, not from the dregs of humanity.

Moreover, there are always those in public office who don’t believe in democracy, but as some of the present GOP politicians at the federal, state, and county levels want to destroy it from within. They merely pose as patriots while depriving millions of their fellow citizens of their right to vote from fear that they’ll vote “the wrong way.”

Americans who fought and died in two World Wars to protect our democracy could never have imagined that only a few generations later America might choose as president an unstable fascist dictator.

Just as incredible is that all three branches of government could collude to do precisely what they were designed to avoid doing by the separation of powers. Not that every Supreme Court justice or member of Congress is guilty of this collusion, but enough of them were and are to enable the former president to undermine these supposedly independent institutions.

We are dealing today with a far different kind of person than once filled the ranks of an honorable GOP party, men and women of integrity who in governing were open to compromise for the good of the country. Today, however, this party has been overrun with ideologues, extremists, and right-wing fanatics, who don’t want to govern in the old-fashioned manner by working with their Democratic colleagues in moving America forward.

They want only to wear down, frustrate, and obstruct their colleagues, refusing to listen, show good faith, or find common ground; fomenting division and hatred, while disillusioning voters, who may want nothing to do with the political process and withdraw from the fray — the ultimate game plan for this new breed of Republican to have the political field all to themselves.

They have already knelt to kiss the ring of this modern Thrasymachus in repudiation of those democratic principles they once espoused. They have hitched their wagon to a wannabe dictator, a Barnum & Bailey Bunkum Artist, who would destroy our democracy by spreading lies for personal gain.

His enablers at all levels of government are political chameleons, alive and well in every age, forever in search of the golden ring of opportunity to advance their own interests. They have shown by word and voting record that they reject the will of the people by their obdurate refusal to enact their wishes into law.

This raises the question of how do we know that we can trust those running for office since there are always voters who want to be lied to, as there are always scoundrels who want to oblige? These same voters long to abase themselves before any charlatan with the chutzpah to proclaim himself their Long-Awaited-Savior who will dry their tears and lead them into Paradise. But what if they follow this “Savior” over a cliff?

In Hitler’s Germany the mantra was, Führer, befiehl! Wir folgen dir bis in den Tod! Leader, command!(We follow you unto death!) How much political thinking in Germany at that time was a blind surrender to communal madness?

It is true because my Führer says it’s true! (And I believe in him because he is my Lord and Savior, who cannot be wrong, who cannot do wrong!) Sound familiar? If America succumbs to this level of infantilism as many do today for Trump, God help us for we are doomed!

Gebt mir zehn Jahre Zeit und ihr werdet Deutschland nicht wiedererkennen.” (“Give me ten years and you won’t recognize Germany”), boasted Hitler to the German people in promising to make Germany Great Again. They gave him twelve — and it was leveled to the ground.

Frank Breslin is a retired high-school teacher in the New Jersey public school system. Read other articles by Frank.