In Book VIII of “The Republic,” Plato is clear-eyed about these
perils for democracy. He worries that a “towering despot” will
inevitably rise in any democracy to exploit its freedoms and seize power
by fomenting fear of some group and representing himself as the
protector of the people against that fear. It is for this reason that
Plato declares democracy the most likely system to end in tyranny.
Plato’s prediction is most dramatically exhibited by Weimar Germany. But
more mundane recent examples of his description of democracy’s
breakdown and descent into tyranny exist to varying degrees in the cases
of Hungary and Russia. The fragmentation of equal respect is a clear
alarm for the United States. We must heed it by categorically rejecting
politicians who seek to gain office by exploiting the mistaken belief
that democratic values are weaknesses.