It’s easy to denounce Donald Trump as a rogue President and blame the failings of an entire system on an individual who obviously wouldn’t pass many tests to prove mental balance. That would settle the problem immediately and end the debate as well. Greater focus on Trump as an individual also seems convenient to paper over the cracks in the system that has produced him, or electoral democracy as it is popularly called.
Some are actually celebrating the chaos at Capitol Hill as a sign of democracy. The turmoil could have been more fun but lives have been lost in the pursuit of democracy. Many would much prefer not to see what was obvious from the first. That the “selling of the President” as a famous book discussing US Presidencies had said, elections were about exchange of goods. Voting a person of choice to power in return for the election of a President is about barter not governance. That this choice was manipulated by a variety of forces is rarely discussed.
Deification of electoral democracy
US aid agencies run several projects globally to promote democracy globally. Since the same state agencies were very prompt in fighting wars against the same people, it was justified in the name of democracy too. Defending the US and defending democracy was considered the same and is still for some e.g by the academics. A ph.d on a related topic from any US University is a permanent meal ticket in any country including Bangladesh.
One needs to explore the so called “champions of democracy” and their own class and social character apart from motivation. But like many aspects of faith, “democracy” is not discussable. Even a cursory remark on its failings or limitations leads to demonizing of those who do. Anyone not agreeing about the failure proof nature of democracy is immediately described as a “fascist” and branded a political criminal.
Essentially it means that Democracy is not a description of a functional aspect of governance anymore but an idea that is near religious in nature which has taken on meta physical hues. Most governments not only think they are democratic but elected as well. But Trump’s election has put a question make on that process too.
Trump can be demonized but democracy has to be defied for the survival of what has become political ideology rooted in religious aspirations of some and control by a group of priestly elites of the political variety.
Is democracy essential?
Historically speaking, democracy has been linked to the rise of the West. In this rise, internal and external realities were different in the sense that when the glorious zealots of democracy were flourishing, the West was also extending and expanding its colonial empire. The Westminster model so worshipped in the East didn’t arrive on a ship of philosopher but raiders and enslavers. Why should it be so appropriate for the invaded and abused is rarely explained.
Of course the reason is not difficult to find because politics in the colonized world is with the colonial elite. Based on their learning and education, Western democracy seems like the only way for all. History shows politics is largely managed by the elite who gain most from what is called the “democratic system”. It’s they who have become the opponents of any search for a governance alternative.
The conflict has other dimensions too because the conflict between democracy and non-democracy is also being seen as a conflict between the West led by the US and the East led by China. In fact even as the tussle in Washington was on, the names of both appeared on the issue many times. China obviously has chortled at the misery of its arch rival and the US expressed great dismay at that.
The US of course has been pushing the “you are guilty for the pandemic“ button against China last year but the Trump show has been so dismal for its image that its really trying to clean up its own act now. However the fact of the US state of affairs and its impact as a global model of democracy is under a threat, small or big.
One of the reasons why it will be so is that the Trump Presidency may be over but the Trump era is not. The people who stormed the Capitol Hill are not some random rowdy mob members but voters who saw in Trump the great saviour. They are half of the US and that’s a very big force and there is no reason to think that Trump was a nightmarish interregnum in a lucid democratic dream. They do represent the left outs of the elitist system that governs the US and other democracies.
The East, ruled mostly by the children of colonial elite assuming a stake in democracy has imperiled society as the left outs are economic not just political. But the entire business of making elitism legitimate seems to be on but running slightly out of breath. It’s time to start discussing not what is ailing but new indigenous models that apply to a braver new world.