The Definition of Democracy

Democracy: a: government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

This article particularly caught my attention, as having been a political science major I’ve been watching the left’s devolving definition of democracy over the years. My senior thesis was on democratization in Ukraine, and I’ve studied democratic movements worldwide, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Therefore I put myself forward as if not an expert, at least someone with more knowledge on the subject of democratization, than say Barack Obama.

The Wall Street Journal:
The Dumbing Down of Democracy

The pivotal foreign policy event so far in the Obama presidency was not this week’s summit with Russia. It was instead that rarest of all events: Barack Obama’s silence.

When the people of Iran filled the streets of their country demanding a fair election, the U.S. clutched for a week. Uncertain of whether U.S. interests lay with the nuke-building ayatollahs or the democracy-seeking population, the Obama team essentially mumbled sweet nothings through the first days of the most extraordinary world event in this young presidency’s term. That moment of hesitation, when a genuine and strategically useful democratic moment needed support, could prove costly.

When the Group of Eight nations tried to shape a response to the Iranian government’s repression, Russia knew what to say about Iran.

“No one is willing to condemn the election process,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “because it’s an exercise in democracy.”

Behold the official dumbing down of democracy.

Our purpose here is not to ridicule Foreign Minister Lavrov’s absurd description of the Iranian elections. It is instead to show his statement the respect that anything dangerous deserves.

Two years ago in June, Vladimir Putin’s main press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, visited the offices of the Journal editorial page. It was a remarkable meeting. The editors asked about the widely discussed criticisms of the Putin government’s actions against opposition political parties and individuals and its control of the media. With a calm and confident smile, Mr. Peskov replied: “Ours is a different system of democracy.” That was it. He stopped talking but kept smiling. The message sank in.

Barack Obama is willing to accept this notion of varying standards of democracy based upon the need to get along with other nations, and the leadership (dictatorial or otherwise) of those nations. He will not buck the international institutions on the legitimacy of a tyrannical governments rulers, for fear of losing their respect, and being scorned like George W. Bush was for his promotion of the spread of democracy. Obama would rather have the goodwill of dictators and tyrants, than the knowledge that he is doing right by the ideals the United States was founded upon. “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people”, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. If the leader of the free-world, also known as the President of the United States will not stand up for freedom, than what hope do future generations of Americans have for living in a free country.

Obama, and much of the worldwide left believe Ahmadinejad, Chavez, and Zelaya are legitimate democratic leaders, because they won elections. This to the left, is a shift towards democracy because they are breaking away from the old system of governance in Iran, Venezuela, and Honduras respectively, where patronage and corruption oiled the machinery of the state. While these new systems are not multiparty or constitutionally consistent as were the governments of their predecessors in the 1980’s, these governments are working to give the poor and all people of their nations, not a “wealthy, leisurely lifestyle”, which the left scorns, and considers consistent with Western democracies, but instead offers the poor “lives of dignity”, and “honest humility”.

Clientelism and patronage still rule the day in much of Latin America, and the Mid-East. While autocrats such as Chavez, and Zelaya claim to be ruling and working for the benefit of the poor, they offer no betterment of life, but only a social welfare system that keeps all members of society equally impoverished. Venezuela’s Chavez has also claimed the changes he is implementing while not producing many benefits for the people will take 20 or more years to show results, plus he has changed the constitution so he can be El’Presidente for life. Zelaya attempted to do much the same in Honduras, which is why the Constiutionally empowered Supreme Court ordered his arrest, and removal from power. Ahmadinejad, supported by the theocratic Iranian regime, has stolen an election, and made his political opponents disappear. The images and the reports we all received via Twitter, and from other sources, were frightening to say the least. None of this is democratic, in any shape, manner or form. These are the people Obama want’s to meet with, “without preconditions”.

Holding elections provides the first outward sign that the democratization process is taking place. However elections must be transparent and verifiable in order to be accepted by the people and by other governments. Even with open and free elections without social equality, economic freedom, civil rights, and equal access to the government, true democratization cannot be claimed to have occurred.

The international left has a shallow notion of democracy, believing that less emphasis should be placed on the appearance of democracy through institutions and laws, but rather emphasizing the benefits people receive, and trusting that autocrats and dictators will be constrained by their consciences, and by international, and NGO oversight. This is utter nonsense.

A dictator benign or not is still a dictator, no one can trust in the goodwill or self-restraint of a person that places themselves above the law, and above the rest of society. A democratic system without checks and balances, making the law king, is not a democratic system at all, but rather a feeble, twisted copy of one. Civil society and social organizations should be independent and be able to affect the will of the state through mass membership and political power. If the state controls all groups within society and clamps down on those it does not, then it is not democratic, but rather autocratic. In the end the most important test of democracy is does the state work for the people or do the people work for the state. In Russia, China, Iran, and many Latin American countries the people work for the state. That is not democratic, but rather communist and autocratic.

We have fallen a very long way from the ideal of freedom that sparked a revolution, overthrew a tyrant, and gave birth to the United States of America. The American revolution literally changed the world, it has given freedom not only to the American people, but to billions around the world. The world is now entering a new Dark Age under the willfully blind eyes of Barack Obama, a world where up is down, right is wrong, and might makes right.

What are you going to do about it…?

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