Over on Facebook yesterday I posted an observation that in times of insecurity, social unrest, economic uncertainty and moral decline, people turn to nationalism to give a sense of security, belonging and confidence. Nationalism invariably requires a strong, dynamic and charismatic leader. Furthermore, history shows that the masses, when given the chance in such times of crisis usually elect or hail that strong leader who often becomes a dictator, emperor or monarch.

It is something to remember when one feels buoyed up by the huge MAGA crowds that Donald Trump draws.

Does this mean Donald Trump is a dictator? I don’t think so. America’s constitution is strong and the underlying economy and political situation is stable and confident. While Trump is a strong personality I don’t think his record actually shows an overreach of power. It is true that historically speaking, the next step after a republican form of government is a dictatorship or empire, but this transformation usually takes place as an evolution not a revolution.  In voicing a warning about the passionately patriotic MAGA crowds I’m not pointing out where America is now, but where she may be headed.

Speaking of patriotism: love of country is a virtue. However, unless it is guided by the higher virtues of love of God and love of truth the love of country can become an idol which leads to destruction.

I should also add that, while I am not a great Trump fan, I am really not a Biden supporter. I can’t believe America has not been able to produce more worthy and likeable candidates. My own opinion is that I will look past the personalities and try to vote for policies, furthermore– of the two major parties, the Republican party policies on that issue are closest to my principles. If there is a threat to unborn human life and religious freedom it is more likely to come from the left than the right.

In saying this about dictatorships and democracies, it’s worth thinking politics and civics through a little further. We’ve been taught that democracy is best and dictatorships are bad. However, this is simplistic. The fact of the matter is, any form of government is only as good as the people in it. The Catholic principle is that any form of government should work first and foremost for the common good. When a people are virtuous and well educated, and are themselves interested and concerned about the common good, then democracy works well and is superior.

However, it is perfectly possible for a monarchy or dictatorship to be benevolent and work well for the common good. Democracy can be corrupt, decadent, immoral and full of sleaze and abuse of the innocent and vulnerable and be a wicked, lazy and corrupt form of government just as a dictatorship can be cruel and heartless and only self interested.

The worst form of government of all is one (whether it is a democracy of dictatorship) that is motivated and driven by an ideology. An ideology, like communism or the rationalist humanism of the French Revolution, is some form of utopian ideal which must be forced on the people.  In this respect, it seems to me, that the “right wing” have been more prone to fall into the trap of a domineering dictatorship while the “left wing” have been more prone to fall into the totalitarianism of some form of collectivism/communism. The twentieth century shows that both sides can lead humanity into genocide, torture and the most horrific terror.

In other words, there are dangers within every form of human government. Is there a form which is best? Given the great American experiment in constitutional republic, I think the United States has produced a government which has the best track record and the most potential for establishing peace, justice and prosperity for the largest number of people.

This can only be sustained, however, inasmuch as “We the people” strive to be as virtuous, honest, caring and worthy as we expect our leaders to be.

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