To the Editor:
This is in response to Larry Pottorff’s letter on democracy. The oldest democracy today is in London. In 1649, Charles I was executed by Parliament, starting a civil war, and Cromwell formed a republic. He was a terrible dictator, and after he died Charles II became King by act of Parliament. In 1721, under George I, England became a constitutional monarchy with a “Prime Minister” making the kings figureheads. A complete democracy came when 1918's representation of the People’s Act tripled the number of voters. A republic didn’t work for England because people like to feel they have some control over their government.
Four democracies that morphed into what Larry would call republics are Venezuela, Germany, Italy and Russia. Chavez, Hitler, Mussolini and Putin were all voted into office, took control of their legislatures through violence, controlled the media through intimidation and murder, and had control over the national police and courts. All four started with a small group of supporters and convinced a vocal and, sometimes violent, super minority of loyalists.
Three used the boogeyman strategy of pointing to an ethnic group – Hitler, subhumans; Chavez, foreigners and the rich; Putin, foreign governments – to get control of their people. Today’s nationalists in Europe are using the Syrian refugees as their foil. All required some group to scare their supporters. All convinced their people that they and they alone know what is best for them. All used tremendous egos, a huge thirst for power, and convincing lies to gain total control.
Mr. Pottorff’s hope that my “vast knowledge of history” would support his belief that a republic is better than a liberal democracy is not correct. Republics are more likely to go to war, to declare martial law and to overreach their supporters.