The Flawed State Of Democracy

I watch the world, as each day there are more protests, yet many of these are peaceful with rational and logical requests. If democracy truly existed, then surely there would be no need for protests because the will of the masses will have been heard? Power and control rule humanity, so what part does democracy play? What is democracy these days, and is a republic truly representative as how it was intended back in ancient times? Blood has been spilled and countless lives have been sacrificed in the name of democracy, so why is it so important and has society become complacent in accepting limited democracy, or are others expecting more than they should? The will of the people may seem right, but do the masses know what is right, can they be trusted, and what if they aren’t and the minority are right? Look at the Salem Witch Trials; a classic case of where the minority were right and governance failed the minority.

First of all what is defined by democracy or a republic? A republic is where people are represented via elected representatives, who in turn nominate a President to oversee the republic. This is a type of indirect democracy called a representative democracy, but how many of them are drowning in red tape, bribery, corruption, and rules that favor the government in the name of the people? States can refer to themselves as a democratic republic but are they truly democratic, or is that what they wish others to believe? The idea is that citizens govern for the collective public good, but there will always be a minority and majority of what is considered good.

Democracy is much harder to define, but one assumes democracy as a right to freedom of speech, such civil and human rights these days. They confer power through people power—numbers to urge governments for reforms. In short they have the right to have a voice. In ancient times where direct democracy took place (Athens) citizens had the opportunity to raise concerns, but to be recognized as a citizen was similar to the terms that voters had to fulfill early on in the western voting process. Not everyone had a say or was entitled to vote. As time has progressed, more people are able to vote compared to the excluded, which included women, foreigners, non-landowners, slaves, and those who had not reached the age of majority. It does appear the current generation takes the right to vote for granted, or that equal rights or citizenship is natural. Of course they should be, but history tells us that these freedoms are a result of centuries of campaigning by those who were denied such rights. This is why history is important so that people realize that the rights they have are a result of sacrifices and bloodshed.

A republic usually has a charter or constitution, which theoretically protects the people from a possible corrupt government, whereas an absolute democracy would allow a majority to vote against a minority. Here, the will of the people would be carried with no legal framework. Both types are susceptible to manipulation, but more so the latter which is why a direct democracy wouldn’t work in many of societies today, perhaps only small groups where the outcome can be decided by the majority. Theoretically a republic protects the minority and limits the powers of the majority.

In France the Fifth Republic governs with a Parliament, but also has a President elected as a head of state, who then appoints a Prime Minister who oversees Parliament. During the recent French elections it is poignant to note not who won, but the balance of the blank votes and abstentions. It is a message that the people do not feel the democratic process is working, and by casting a white/blank vote as 4 million people did, they were actually voting to express how undemocratic the system was. The electorate had a poor choice of candidates, and many chose not to vote or to make a protest vote. The safe choice was an idealist candidate (Macron) from the previous government who was inexperienced, or the far right candidate (Le Pen) that had been associated with racism, but who vowed to look after the interests of the people.

From the 42 million votes let’s see how democratic the result was, and was it the will of the people according to the INSEE and Ministry of France? A third (34.87) of the voting electorate  did not like either candidate, and did not feel that either candidate represented their interests. Roughly 20.75 million voted for Macron, 10.64 million for Le Pen, and 12 million abstained. It is worthy to note from that 12 million, 4 million made the effort to get up and go to a polling station to cast a blank vote in protest. That does mean than more than half the electorate did not vote for Macron or want him as their head of state. Therefore, it is not the majority of the citizens, but the majority of those who made valid votes that matter. Sadly blank votes don’t get counted, but are recorded to increase the turn out percentages.

In the recent US elections it was similar where 231,556,622 people were eligible to vote, but 92,671,979 (40 percent) didn’t. Only 138,884,643 (60 percent) voted and one can consider those who voted for a third party or a non-existent candidate were making a protest vote. Clinton got 65,853,516 votes, and Trump 62,984,825. Therefore, due to the mechanics of the Electoral College where some states no longer adhere to the original concept of its inception, a majority vote did not win. You then wonder how democratic is the system, because republican democracy is designed to protect the minority from those who try to manipulate the system. The Electoral College was designed to protect the minority when it was created, yet one wonders how democratic it is today considering the original concept has been altered, and states have different electoral college rules in regards to what are deemed faithless electors. In my opinion, electors should not be bound to vote for any candidate other than the one they feel is in the best interests of the people. That was after all the concept of the Electoral College in a bid to prevent bribery and corruption over votes.

So what does the future hold for democracy? Do the people have a right to decide who should govern and represent them, and how do they ensure there is no corruption? That is why the judicial system must remain impartial to ensure that democracy is balanced between the wishes of the people, and what is legally moral and correct. What happens if there is a corrupt government? There are measures to remove them, but what if they fail? That would mean the end of democracy where the will of the people is halted, silenced, and is controlled. I fear that the judiciary in some countries has lost their way among all the precedents and statutes, and while their job is to interpret and uphold the law, they must also do so by taking into consideration the shift in societal expectations and values.

Democracy isn’t necessarily about the will of the masses, but what a media outlet wishes to promote. Are owners persuaded to promote things to influence the public, who in turn donate vast sums to certain parties in governance? Yes, there are rules about such donations, but there are also loopholes. Some may call them incentives, but others may say it’s legal bribery. This has always existed and probably will continue in some fashion. Those who seek power will find a way, even if the masses oppose. That isn’t actual democracy, but it’s still called that because it is a diluted version of what society accepts, yet the masses feel helpless, and many comment that they don’t vote because it won’t make a difference. It can and does, however, realistically not all of the time. People need to value democracy, and use it because if they stop, then that allows the dictators to take control, and trying to regain a democratic voice again will be hard. It would be a regression of the advances made in society that campaigners and protesters have fought for with their lives.

If the will of the masses is not a democratic majority, then that system needs to be reevaluated. What if the government fails in listening or to represent the people adequately? Well, riots and protests ensue, and that is democracy—when the masses declare that they are not being heard. Is human nature compatible with true democracy? I find it hard to reconcile because there will always be factions, and the masses aren’t always right, nor are governments. So how can a perfect society exist when the very nature of democracy and its perceptions are flawed and idealistic?

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