If the people are mature and serious and diligently guard the common welfare, then it is right to adopt a law by which some people are permitted to appoint for themselves magistrates to administer the republic. However, if the same people, having been depraved little by little, hold a rigged election and entrust the government to dissolute and profligate men, then it is justifiable to deprive such people of the power of conferring public offices and to return to the judgment of a few good men.
Augustine, On Free Will 1, Cited by Thomas Aquinas ST I-II Q.97 art.1
I find this a fascinating passage, first, because Augustine wrote it, and second, because Thomas cites it himself. We often think of these thinkers as opposed to democracy. Yet, here is a radical defense of democracy and a radical critique.
Which, of course, makes itself relevant today. When we have a senator who says our first priority is to make a sitting president a one-term president, then we have indication that he is not looking out for the general welfare and that those who vote for him are not looking out for the general welfare. When we have people who agree with the positions of one candidate more than others but refuse to vote for that candidate because he or she won’t win, then we have a situation in which people are not considering the general welfare. When we have prelates in the church who focus singularly on abortion, then we have a situation in which people are not concerned with the common welfare.
What Augustine and Thomas fail to do here is provide us with a means by which to return our government to a few good men. Perhaps they presumed that a monarch would always exist to make these judgments, but that is not the case. Both believed that anarchy was worse than almost any government, so we have to wonder what they would say today.
What we must prevent, at all costs, is the dissolution of the the US government into a military dictatorship. Unfortunately, the history of democracies and the US similarity to the Roman Empire does not give me much hope unless the US populace stop hating and start loving and begin to build their society once more.
For that, I ask you join me in prayer.