Editor’s Page

Editor’s Page

Forty years after the founding of Dissent, and four years after the fall of communism, the words democrat and republican should be forsaken.

Well, yes, these words did once denote worthy ideas. Democracy came from ancient Greek; demos (people) and kratos (rule)—rule of the people was deemed the legitimating principle of political life by Athenians. Republic came from Latin: res (thing) and publica (people)—the body politic was the people’s affair, to borrow Cicero’s celebrated formulation. But then neither Athenians nor Romans—nor Thomas Jefferson, that democrat who founded America’s first Republican party—experienced East Germany, the “German Democratic Republic.” Had they been able to imagine that Prusso-Stalinist police state, surely they would have insisted: that’s not what a democratic republic means.

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