Vital Signs

The Quintessential Democratic Politician

What follows is an attempt to portray not the typical statesman, as he repeatedly appeared in the course of Western history up to yesterday, but the average professional politician of our times, the man (or woman) whose chosen trade is to govern his (or her) fellow citizens.

Any ruler must somehow be subordinate to the nature of the society he rules.  But in all societies other than democracies, the rulers have some leeway, precisely because as rulers they set the course that the body of citizens must follow.

On the contrary, the democratic politician theoretically has no leeway at all, for the simple reason that he is not supposed to have any.  Indeed, no one can disagree that democracy is the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  This obviously implies that in a democracy there is no legitimate ultimate ruler other than those who are supposed not to be ruled: “the people,” as they are usually referred to.  Democracy means the sovereignty of the people.  This is the sacred founding dogma to which all citizens are supposed to defer—so sacred that the very existence of some citizens ruling over others should be a scandal in a democracy, unless the latter be understood as mere slaves obeying the orders of their masters.

That is the principle.  But the disturbing fact—one that should be obvious, although democratically incorrect to mention—is...

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