The End of a Great Society
The gradual progress of equality is something fated. The main features of this progress are the following: it is universal and permanent; it is daily passing beyond human control, and every event and every man helps it along. . . . Does anyone imagine that democracy, which has destroyed the feudal system and vanquished kings, will fall back before the middle classes and the rich? Will it stop now, when it has grown so strong and its adversaries so weak?
Alexis de Tocqueville ([ 1848] 1969: xiii)
The famed author of this epigraph emphasized "the principles of order, balance of power, true liberty, and sincere and true respect for law" as indispensable features of all republics and prophetically forecast "that where they are not found the republic will soon have ceased to exist" ( Tocqueville, 1969: xiv). Democracy in America, as a model, faces some difficult challenges to maintain its status as an ideal for other democracies. The growth of American democratic institutions is fraught with ideological contradictions as well as structural anomalies that serve neither true liberty nor the principles of law and order that help establish an ideal civil order. The people, government, and institutions are entangled in a cultural morass that obfuscates the ideals of democracy. As a result, a regressive democracy of unfreedom seems to have become a common experience. Knowingly and unwittingly Americans tend to indulge in a tribal ritual of denial and decline, blaming each other without taking responsibility for their own behavior. This constitutes the crisis of a republic whose future is intricately linked to the well-being of democracy as a global model of public governance.
The sudden demise of a total national enemy--an ideological foe and