Today by chance I ran across something I read years ago that has stuck in my mind ever since. It's a quote attributed to 18th Century Scottish historian Alexander Tyler. His position was that a democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.
He went on to say democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits. After that, democracy will eventually collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
That was in 1787!
Check this....he suggested there were eight steps to democracy:
1. From bondage to spiritual faith
2. From spiritual faith to great courage
3. From courage to liberty (revolution)
4. From liberty to abundance
5. From abundance to complacency
6. From complacency to apathy
7. From apathy to dependence
8. From dependence to bondage
It seems to me one of our mistakes, assuming you believe Mr. Tyler's hypothesis, was to vote "generous gifts" to only a portion of our population vs to everyone. If we all benefit from something, such as a publicly funded education or an interstate highway system (do I dare even mention some sort of universally-available health care?), democracy can perhaps cope. But when we give "gifts" to only a few, such as welfare to the poor at one extreme or tax breaks to the wealthy at the other, those in the middle, who don't qualify for either, become resentful. That's when class warfare arises. That's when the wheels come off.
Just something to think about.