Earlier this year, Joe Biden’s campaign manager said, “We are running a campaign like the fate of our democracy depends on it.”

That’s a heady statement, but an intentional one. The president himself uses the term “our democracy” frequently, as do most progressive politicians and pundits as they wring their hands about the coming election.

Book titles such as “Reclaiming Our Democracy,” “The Future of Our Democracy,” and “Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy” are popping up increasingly as well.

A conspiracy? Doubtful. But neither is it merely coincidence.

According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, an online tool that searches historical sources to track word usage over time, only twice before has the term “our democracy” been in use more frequently than today: the late 1880s (around the time the Statue of Liberty was dedicated) and the late 1930s (during the height of the Great Depression and the onset of World War II).

Between 1950 and 1970, the term “our democracy” was rarely seen in print. But its usage has ratcheted up steadily since the Reagan Revolution began in 1981, and especially since 2000. It’s a development about which we all should be dubious.

I recall learning in 10th grade civics class (for readers born after 1980, that used to be a thing) that America is not a democracy, but a democratic republic. This is a distinction with a very clear difference, most notably the delegation by the people of various and vital public decisions to elected officials.

Although many will say that the term “our democracy” is an innocent shortcut, a catchall phrase for our nation specifically or rule by the people generally, the author of our Constitution would disagree. James Madison made clear in Federalist 14 that “under the confusion of names, it has been an easy task to transfer to a republic observations applicable to a democracy,” and that there are dangers in confounding the two.

Those dangers are manifest today. Progressives’ widespread and increasing use of this innocuous-sounding term is weakening our constitutional checks and balances and undermining the Bill of Rights, the only things standing in the way of what Madison called “the tyranny of the majority.”

Those who most traffic in the term wish to eliminate the Electoral College and reapportion the Senate by population rather than by state. They are working on multiple fronts to weaken First Amendment protections for speech and religion. They have long had the Second Amendment in their sights. And they consistently oppose individuals and organizations that push back against draconian federal restrictions such as public health lockdowns and climate change regulations.

If “our democracy” wants it, “our democracy” should get it, goes their reasoning, oblivious to Booker T. Washington’s admonition: “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority.”

During this election cycle, however, progressives are putting “our democracy” to work in an even more pointed way. Like a magician using sleight of hand to distract his audience, they’re using the phrase to present a false binary to American voters. In sports, this is called “hiding the ball.”

Donald Trump, according to the Left, is an authoritarian who not only will take away our rights but eliminate elections. The charge is, of course, ridiculous—Trump stepped down despite his objections to the 2020 election results, and last I checked it’s his opponents who are using authoritarian tactics to ensure he doesn’t win reelection. But the charge is useful, which to a Marxist mind is all the justification it needs.

Contrasting the potential “autocracy” of a second Trump administration with Biden’s ostensible defense of “our democracy” is meant to distract us from recognizing the real decision that confronts the voters and the actual threat to our republic: the creeping totalitarianism of the administrative state.

Totalitarianism is defined as “subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation, especially by coercive measures.” Ask anybody who lived through COVID-19 if that sounds familiar.

And if you visit Britannica.com—the modern iteration of the company whose encyclopedias we used in 10th grade civics class to learn about things like history and government—you’ll see a more expansive description:

Totalitarianism is a form of government that attempts to assert total control over the lives of its citizens. It is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of individual life through coercion and repression. It does not permit individual freedom. Traditional social institutions and organizations are discouraged and suppressed, making people more willing to be merged into a single unified movement.

I could have sworn I heard something like that last line in a video at the 2012 Democratic National Convention: “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.”

Britannica goes on to say that it was Italian dictator Benito Mussolini who first used the term totalitario, meaning “all within the state, none outside the state, none against the state.” It cites as examples of totalitarian states not only Mussolini’s Italy but Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Germany, and Mao’s China.

Given the growth of the federal government over the past century, totalitarianism certainly represents a greater threat to the United States than authoritarianism.

We’re not there yet, and thanks to America’s exceptional institutions perhaps we won’t get there. But as the recent violent increase in antisemitism shows, something we thought could “never again” happen very well might—all it takes is one generation of historical ignorance.

Those same institutions that have protected us from anything approaching authoritarianism increasingly are becoming our totalitarian masters. As William F. Buckley once observed, it is the extent, not the source, of government power that impinges on freedom.”

Whenever you hear talking heads refer to “our democracy,” pay special attention to what comes next. Don’t assume they’re referring to the democratic republic handed down from our Founding Fathers or trying to preserve our Constitution and its safeguards.

More likely they’re taking advantage of our increasing historical ignorance resulting from the Left’s capture of our educational institutions (which was all part of the plan).

Let’s call our nation what it is: a republic. Whether out of ignorance or malevolence, saying “our democracy” is less likely to strengthen our heritage than seed our demise.

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