I did not take any political science classes in college. Whenever the subject arose, someone would croon (to the tune of Bali Hai from South Pacific) "Poli Sci is boring."
If I had attended a few lectures, perhaps I would have learned why "democracy", which the United States is supposed to be, means that a handful of idiots can block the will and/desires of the majority.
Pushing a buggy with a sleeping infant on a cold, crisp, sunny afternoon, I thought about the mathematics of democracy. My conclusion is that it's a fool's game with few winners, but those winners win big.
The recent presidential election has proven that plus or minus 50% is all that is necessary to win an election. In some rare cases, 2/3 are required. Simple majority seems to rule the day. That is why countries with more than two parties (like most democracies outside the US) hold a second, run-off vote with the two top vote-getters from the initial election. One must have the majority to win/rule. Of course, there are countries like Germany that do not have a run-off, but let parties form a coalition totaling 50% to rule. This requires much horse-trading, back-peddling, and talking out of both sides of the mouth.
Once in power, far fewer votes are needed to pass laws…or screw up the works. In the US, a handful of senators can block any legislation, thus paralyzing the president and messing with citizens, most of which do not agree with the action.
And, then, a single vote of a Supreme Court justice can change the course of history in the United States. That is not good odds or good math…
One is frequently confronted with stories about US Government attempts to preach or impose democracy on other countries. Lack of success is usually relegated to less prominence.
I recall articles and editorials, which I read each Sunday during my school years. Target nations were mostly in Africa, although Southeast Asia was not neglected. Perhaps, the war in Vietnam was proving to the world the effectiveness. Anyways, Africa seemed to be fertile ground, possibly because of African students at my school, sponsored by some government agency. We played on the soccer team together, but I recall no conversation with any.
I do recall thinking at the time (precocious little bastard, wasn’t I?) that democracy might not work everywhere. I noticed the conditions in those countries and compared that to American life and history. I took no course is political science. Why was I smarter than the folks in Washington?
Today, similar calls for democracy in countries with widely ranging history, culture, economic development, and just about every other factor continue to emanate from austere buildings in Washington. Even China, a nation of more than one billion mouths to feed and an economy able to buy and sell the United States must hear preaching from hypocrites.
I will go out on a limb and predict that China will never adopt American-style democracy. My batting average on Africa is impressive, so you would not be wrong to put money on me.
I am not a fan of Gospodin Putin or the Russian Government. From what I have seen, read, and heard, he is not the kind of guy I’d like to meet (I met Boris Yelsin, who had a sense of humor). I do have some sympathy for the long-suffering Russian people, like I have for most long-suffering peoples.
That said—and getting to meat of the matter—I am also not a fan of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and deceit.
What brought this up?
All media have been flooded with headlines about the recent presidential election in Russia. The main thrust of many is the position that the election was rigged in the favor of the winner. This made me think about other countries and other presidential elections.
I recalled the US presidential election of 2000 and wonder how rigged that was. I recall reading the history of the 1960 presidential election, in which Papa Kennedy forked out a bunch of cash for some unknown reason. This makes me question other elections in the country of my birth.
This thought led me to compare the two countries, which faced each other for decades over buttons to mutual-mass-destruction. At that time, the systems were easy to contrast. Not much was similar, beyond government lying to the people. Let’s see how all that has changed, now that both claim to be democracies. It seems that they share much in common, despite continued differences of opinion on how to control other countries. Here’s my take:
Both claim that voters decide and each vote counts. (See above about the year 2000)
Both claim to conduct fair elections. (Ditto)
Both have a vast gulf between rich and poor, with the rich being favored by politicians.
Both have a justice system characterized by unfairness, based upon money, connections, power, spite, lack of transparency, and luck.
Both have large sections of the population unable to partake in the wealth of the nation, which are ignored by those better off.
Both have security apparatus’, which have inordinate power over daily life.
Both permit their natural resources to be exploited by a few, who are unfairly enriched.
Both maintain a vast penal system, which is fed by above-mentioned legal system.
Both have populations, which seem to be well-educated, but still choose leaders based upon name awareness.
Of course, it is much easier to criticize other countries, especially by those arrogant enough to feel special. But, one should fix one’s house, before suggesting failings on the part of one’s neighbors. The United States has had over 200 years to improve its system of government, and people seem to become worse off. Russia has been attempting to institute a more-liberal and open form of government for about ten percent of that time (after many centuries of oppression). Many might not like the new/old president, but he did receive significantly more votes than other candidates. Maybe, just maybe, he did not need to rig the vote…as did “the worst president” in the history of the United States was forced to do.
NB. As point of contrast, I offer an example from that horrible place, “Europe”. Germany is not perfect, but many of the ills mentioned above do not exist (or not as drastically). Politicians are less “buyable”. For example, the President of Germany (a ceremonial position with no power, but much symbolism) was hounded out of office for accepting favorable conditions on a home loan. I would not be surprised to hear that all politicians in other countries (to remain unnamed) receive favorable conditions, to the point of zero interest to outright gifts. No one considered the fact that banks decided loan terms based upon risk and that the president (who will receive a life-time salary) is a low risk and thus a candidate for lower interest. This may be an extreme example at the opposite end of the democracy spectrum, but it shows that fairness can be a working principle.
I’ve been saying this all along, without conducting research. It should be obvious to anyone intelligent enough to pick the right candidate.
I wrote yesterday of my desire to be saved from reading, hearing, or seeing anything about a villain whose I will not mention (in keeping with my own wish).
But, once again, democracy proves how idiotic it can be. Supposedly intelligent (they surely think so highly of themselves) people are demanding an investigation into the death of someone responsible for untold deaths and suffering for forty years.
Some cases are open and shut...so, shut up.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.