In Jock Young’s fraternity satire Epsilon Zeta, several chapter members, including an officer, repeatedly break the by-rules of the fraternity charter involving alcohol and drugs. In the end, the brothers hold a referendum on whether to obey their charter and discipline the rule breakers. When the votes are tallied, it’s clear the chapter is lost. More brothers than not reject the rules that they had inherited to govern themselves. The charter is revoked and the chapter is dissolved.
When I first read this book 9 years ago, it introduced me to the limits of democracy, which we tend to overrate. In turn we take the civil society for granted. A community, large or small, is tempted to lose itself in degeneracy, or “progress” as it’s called, and reject the tradition it was accepted into. The Founders understood the Constitutional order they passed down to the next generation would hold only for a people who believed in it and governed by it.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” –Abraham Lincoln
Many see the Constitution as a barrier to the state setting aright the things that are wrong with the country. If a vote were held today, how many would support the Constitution as the law of the land? Even if a majority supported it, a mere majority is not enough to maintain civil order. Even 90 percent would not be enough. One in 10 people who reject the law and reject the society that it springs from severely damages cohesion and undermines public identity.
It’s no different than Europe’s Muslim voting bloc, symbolized by ISIS acolyte Anjem Choudary, who would democratically reject the country they immigrated to. It’s no different than the Palestinians in Gaza holding their first and only elections to choose the terrorist Hamas party to lead them in eternal, total war against Israel and the West.
And it’s no different than the rejection of civil order over the justified killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Do the mobs care that they lionize a thief and a pothead? No, they don’t. He represents them against what they perceive is a force aligned against them.
And it’s no different than the New York Police Department’s insular, self-righteous reaction to the mayor’s criticism. They showed little remorse in using excessive force and killing Eric Garner. Against the city they swore an oath to protect and serve, they are as one self-serving and morally opaque.
United these groups may be, but divided they make—and break—the republic.