Democracy – Same Problems, Different Eras

A 1920 Essay From Dr. Frank Crane About Democracy and Indifference

The United States is more polarized than it has ever been.

Very few Americans are feeling indifferent about our democracy these days. Americans have strong feelings one way or another about many issues. Yet many people feel powerless to affect the way our democracy operates. The question many are asking is, “is democracy dead?”

We have two political parties who generally do not represent the best interests of the people. Instead they stick along party lines on all issues. What makes this charade even more distressing is that our “representatives” are bought and paid for by corporations, PACs and lobbyists. Distracted by partisan politics, Americans become complacent and indifferent to the underlying problem – corruption. This is not a new phenomenon.

Dr. Frank Crane (1861 – 1928) was a Presbyterian minister, well known across the country as a columnist, author and lecturer about positive everyday living and home grown wisdom. He wrote this essay, Democracy and Indifference in 1920.

While the specifics of graft and corruption have changed since 1920, the fundamentals have not. We still have a government that answers first to corporations, trusts and grafters.

Dr. Crane’s short essay is worth repeating (punctuation and capitalization as originally printed):

Democracy and Indifference

The suicide of Democracy is indifference. The trouble with the USA is not too much politics, but not enough.

A Monarchy or a Government by Trusts by Bosses or by Grafters will work itself because there is a class whose self interest keeps them on the job It is their bread and butter. Also jam.

A Democracy will not work itself. It has to be worked. The purer, decenter and cleaner it is the more it is in danger because nobody’s immediate selfish interests are engaged.

That is why Democracies invariably fall into the hands of Grafters.

That is why there spring up Political Parties which are compact organizations of men who expect to get something out of it for themselves. The cohesive power of public plunder is stronger than the unifying energy of an ideal.

Parties exist because we have to make it worth somebody’s while to run the Government. They are based upon the weakness of the sentiment of Patriotism.

They arise from the lack of Civic Conscience. They substitute personal ambition party spirit and the pork barrel for those noble motives which are too watery.

For instance they are saying now in Dayton, Ohio that the City Manager Plan they have had quite a while is to be abandoned. The reason is that nobody seems interested enough in it to defend it.

The two political party organizations hate it of course. It keeps their hands out of the grab bag. Hence they have steadily done their utmost to discredit it. They are banking on a pretty safe thing- Public Indifference.

This sort of thing means the corroding possibly the collapse of Democracy in the end.

One thought on “Democracy – Same Problems, Different Eras

  1. Dorothy Todd

    This essay is so glaringly honest. While reading it, I completely forgot it was written almost 100 years ago. It is still absorbing and relevant today – proving (to me) truth never changes.

    Thank you for always bringing stuff to our attention that we should still care about!

    Best regards,


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