Saturday, May 25, 2024

Musings on the Threat of Demagoguery to Democracy

Musings on the Threat of Demagoguery to Democracy

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., May 25, 2024

Since the 17th century democracy has been a political preference of western nations over autocracy.  Today the trend seems back to the future in politics, with nationalist demagogues gaining popularity and promoting authoritarian regimes in America, Russia and Israel supported by nationalist religions that denigrate libertarian forms of democracy. 

Charismatic nationalists have redirected libertarian public preferences to more nationalist political objectives, portending more political conflict in the world’s democracies.  That has been accompanied by a shift in religions to accept more divisive tribal norms over the reconciliation of religious  and political differences with universal and altruistic politics. 

Political legitimacy in a democracy is based on legal and moral standards that reflect its national values; and religions are the primary source of standards of legitimacy.  Germany was a Christian democracy in 1933 when HItler assumed totalitarian power, and his Nazi brownshirts and secret police suppressed political opposition while Hitler built up his military forces.

When Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, he and his Republican Party had the support of most White Christians.  But by 2020 Trump’s narcissism, immorality and radical right politics had weakened his GOP.  Trump was defeated in 2020, but polls indicate his millions of dedicated followers will support him in November, making the outcome uncertain.

To protect American democracy from demagoguery, lessons learned in political legitimacy from Hitler and Trump require loyalty to the Constitution, the rule of law and altruistic moral standards in democracy.  Elected officials, the military and law enforcement must remain loyal to their oath to support and defend the Constitution and minimize the use of lethal force. 

Hitler used violence and political subterfuge to subvert Germany’s Christian values, its  constitution and its police and military forces to Nazi control in 1933.  America’s Constitution survived a Civil War and a recent assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters; but aside from the Civil War, American military and police agencies have remained loyal to the Constitution.

Most German Christians sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the Nazi Party, just as most Christians in America sacrificed Jesus on the altar of radical right Republican politics when they elected Trump in 2016.  Neither the Protestant or Catholic Church condemned Hitler’s immoral regime, just as most American churches have been indifferent to Trump’s immorality. 

Issues of sovereignty distinguish democracy from demagoguery.  Democracy gives people control of their political destiny under the moral sovereignty of God, and God’s will is the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It’s a common word of faith and a moral imperative for all Jews, Christians and Muslims; but exclusivist religious beliefs are divisive and promote political demagoguery.


Zionism is a form of Jewish nationalism that Netanyahu and his ultra conservative supporters share, and it has led to atrocities by the IDF among Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  Yuval Noah Horan has asked, Will Zionism survive the war?  While Zionism has taken many forms in its 150 year history, President Biden assured Netanyahu that he shares his Zionist views, and has been steadfast in his support of Netanyahu.  Horan has opined a dismal future for Zionism: “In recent years Israel has been ruled by governments that turned their back on the moderate forms of Zionism. In particular, the coalition government established by Netanyahu in December 2022 has categorically rejected the two-state solution and the Palestinian right to self-determination, and instead embraced a bigoted one-state vision. Like the anti-Israel demonstrators around the world, the Netanyahu coalition believes in the slogan “from the river to the sea.” In its own words, the founding principle of the Netanyahu coalition is that “the Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of Eretz Yisrael” — Eretz Yisrael is a Hebrew term referring to the entire territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The Netanyahu coalition envisions a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which would grant full rights only to Jewish citizens, partial rights to a limited number of Palestinian citizens and neither citizenship nor any rights to millions of oppressed Palestinian subjects. This is not just a vision. To a large extent, this is already the reality on the ground. Nothing that has happened since Oct. 7 indicates that the Netanyahu coalition has changed its views. On the contrary, the carnage and devastation inflicted on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, the killing and dispossession of Palestinians in the West Bank, and the refusal to commit to any future peace plan all indicate that the current Israeli government has no respect either for the individual human rights of Palestinians or for their collective national aspirations.” See

Despite Biden’s support for Netanyahu, Haaretz has reported, Out of ideas, Netanyahu sees Biden and Defense Minister Gallant as a cabal plotting against him.  See


Netanyahu’s approach to “divide and conquer” his adversaries is typical of demagogues.  See

The International Criminal Court has called for indictments of Netanyahu and two members of his war cabinet, along with three Hamas leaders for war crimes.  In response to the  ICC warrant threat Netanyahu “called the ICC a ‘farce’ and likened the prosecutor to antisemites, while Biden called the ICC prosecutor’s decision ‘outrageous’. See

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has continued to condemn the arrest warrant being sought against him by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper. "It endangers all other democracies, and warning US Leaders, 'You're Next.See

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