I will say the when I finished the mental part of the project Democray in America in Hard Times, A Personal Journey, by visiting Don Rickerts, such a brilliant man, only to find that he had died on September 10, 2011, a deep feeling of despair overwhelmed me as to the meaning of that day and his death.
And yet, after a huge thunderstorm had come up out of nowhere, there was a rainbow too at the end of the walk, if one believes events sometimes have inner meanings to them, at least at times. The reason for despair was because Don was not very optimistic about the future of Liberty in this country, which bothered him as a serious Libertarian thinker, and really thinker in general actually, although he was optimistic enough to have a child later than many do in life, which maybe says more in the end, as times change too, as does the meaning of Liberty.
As to the title, in which I wish to offend none, although in the nature of things that is not possible, Alexis DeTocqueville was a French aristocrat, or really by 1831 when he came to visit here a descendent of such, given the French Revolution.
As to his genius, DeTocqueville foresaw that the destiny of the world would be held between America and Russia, as it still is with nuclear weapons even as we sit here. From 1831, that is an awe-inspiring prediction, is it not, to get that America and Russia some day would face off for global power, like they still really do, if China he didn't get yet, like Napoleon did.
DeTocqueville didn't get everything right of course, as he was just a man, if a brilliant one, and yet a rather frustrated one also.
He was a frustrated man, because his mind was developed for a different age, one of extreme privilege for the Few, even compared to today.
Someone like DeTocqueville didn't have to work, like his American counter-part Thomas Jefferson, other than managing the managing of an estate, which of course pretty much eluded Jefferson, and so could devote themselves to endless reading into history and such.
Even modern academics are by and large incapable of certain types of generalized super deep historical comparisons of a fashion possible to someone like DeTocqueville, as it's hard to get grants for such things.
As to being frustrated, DeTocqueville ran for office as France democratized, and wrote brilliantly on France too, but as to public life, although acclaimed as a genius even in his day, he was not accepted as a political leader, quite possibly because his aristocratic mannerisms went over poorly in a democratic age.
As to how different a world a formal aristocracy is versus our de facto plutocracy, aristocrats were judged in different courts of law literally, instead of today's residential differences as to social class, which if there are some similarities as to there being like Mosca said anywhere and everywhere a Ruling Class, the differences between formal and informal aristocracy loom larger.
Before we turn to gay marriage and DeTocqueville's Dilemma, it's worth looking at the Bush family to see the power of DeTocqueville's analysis as to the dilemmas of equality in a democracy and governance, and legal and political equality is where democracy begins, and yet... .
The Bush family is obviously one of great power and privilege, and also many accomplishments, objectively speaking. Money doesn't fall from trees, and if there is truth in the old saw "every great fortune is founded on a crime," that is not the whole of it by any stretch of the imagination, or really even most of it.
That privilege of the Bush family however goes over poorly in a democracy to no small extent, since we have to have a typical person decide the vote, and people who are privileged by definition aren't like other people, and so often aren't very popular. That's why H.W. ate pork rinds and when W. acted far dumber than he was, since his Air Force IQ actually reveals him as gifted at 129, higher than almost 97 per cent of the population. You didn't like him because you didn't agree with what he was doing, not because he didn't know what he was doing by and large.
At the same time that privileged people aren't popular, the brute fact of the matter is that even as democracies so love equality, governing a complex society isn't easy either, and so to do that governing sits intrinsically uneasily with what DeTocqueville thought was our number one love, which again was quality, even more than actual accomplishment. (DeTocqueville for example would be unsurprised by Charles Murray's finding that Americans are under-represented compared to Northern Europe in terms of genius, save in technological fields with immediate application.)
As to why equality was such a powerful force, DeTocqueville in his introduction saw in the Christian faith itself an inner movement towards equality, due to the ending of faith and people inextricably being tied together as with most forms of Judaism, if Islam also has that property to a certain extent and yet poor relations empirically to date with equality.
The American dream of every man having a chance to have everything he ever wanted was one natural development out of that Christian root in DeTocqueville's view, so very different than an aristocratic mentality, where keeping place was the whole point.
Of course that equality had only in 1831 just recently been applied to white males in his day, and yet he predicted that once that principle was accepted, it intrinsically led to the extension of that principle to other groups, if he didn't quite realize I think what that would mean at the time in terms of what we still struggle with, race and sexuality.
As to race, DeTocqueville was far too pessimistic, thank God.
He also probably missed a lot of Southern nuances as to race, like Stonewall Jackson the great general teaching his slaves to read, or Robert E. Lee actually having written things against slavery and racism even, and before the civil war.
As to sexuality, in his day DeTocqueville only addressed gender, in the sense of a role for women he saw as natural, or really assumed as such, even though he in his own life demonstrated a more complex relationship to women, if not a very happy one.
By his own admission, he was a horrible husband, openly having mistresses in the fashion of a French aristocrat, with courtesan types he valued for their independence.
Note, he wasn't under the illusions that women didn't have a mind of their own, as to how he might well see feminism as a natural extension of the Americans love of equality, just as I think he would see the civil rights movement for blacks the same way, especially in the latter case I think being truly moved by that.
At the same time, as to gay marriage, here I think DeTocqueville would see something of a potential American tragedy, as to its internal historical dynamics, if one could also see how time might change that too, and that he might caution calm and patience, for both people who like that idea, and who do not.
As to what it would seem he would be thinking now, it's not as if there haven't always been people identified as homosexuals, if of course not so much with a favorable connotation, to be polite. Ironically in fact, there was a French aristocrat who did the same sort of work as DeTocqueville, DeCustine, except in Russia, and who he ended up passionately hating the place, and who was gay.
At the same time, one of the other core principles DeTocqueville saw as to the American founding was its religiosity: Plymouth was for him the root, and rightly so, if for the Northern half of the country. That's something he really couldn't quite have written about then, as to the ongoing sectionalism, of which gay marriage is a classic example, Red State-Blue State 101.
What a weird way to end the Republic that would be, first as tragedy, then as farce, would it not, at some level?
Thus, I think DeTocqueville would see religion predictably colliding with the American love of equality in the issue of gay marriage, as something intrinsic to its natural evolution over time, in which he wouldn't wish ill on either side, and for one reason: Russia.
Remember, faction here invites enemies there to take heart, and it's not like DeTocqueville's gay twin was treated well by the Russians, nor have non-Orthodox Christians either.
It's not something probably worth splitting the country over either way, and not something trying to lord over a victory on the losing team either way too, it seems to me is how DeTocqueville would see that in terms of his in-depth observations of what the country looked like in 1831 as to understanding how it would evolve over time.