The Problem with Democracy

Dictatorships seems pretty good right now


Totti Sivonen | Thu, 21 Mar 2019


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At times I wonder how the US still functions as a nation. With an extremely polarized political life, it seems as if the country is been pulled in two opposite directions. National unity seems to be crumbling before our eyes.
 
These thoughts popped into my head as I was watching the new “trailer” for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) of 2019. For those of you not familiar with it, it is one of the biggest conservative conferences of the year, hosting top conservative politicians. This year’s big names were Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, among others. The cringe-inducing picture of Donald Trump hugging the US flag before a speech pretty much sums up the entire conference.
 
The US has always seemed a partisan nation, but it’s reaching a whole new level.
In this video, Democrats aren’t just wrong, they’re stupid; immigrants aren’t just different, they’re dangerous. 
Fear is the fun new political weapon.  
 
Of course, it’s not just the Republicans polarizing the political climate, the Democrats are to blame too. It’s easy to see Republican politicians as a bit simple minded, maybe recalling George W. Bush in that famous picture where he holds a phone upside down. But this, in and of itself, is a Democrat tactic: painting the Republicans as redneck simpletons that are unfit for office. Now, the tables have turned, and the Democrats’ own tactics are being used against them. 
 
So, it seems as if cooperation is hard, if not impossible. While China is building its New Silk Road, the US is bickering about who they will give expensive healthcare to.  It’s at times like these dictatorships are pretty attractive. While democratically elected officials change and policies with them, in dictatorships there is no such problem. Consistency in politics is established, and cooperation is easy as well, with one party and no opposition. 
 
It seems as if the recipe that has given democracy its political clout and made it the norm in the eyes of the world has lost its secret ingredient, notably so in the US. Many other democracies, too, are facing similar challenges.
 
But after all, is it a surprise? In a sense, the way democracy is built has a part to play in the polarization. While the logic is clear and well argued – the one with the most votes gets elected, it does divide the nation. Only one side can be a winner.
 
Imagine if the voting system was changed, and the one with the most votes from voters of both parties would be elected. This would require voters to register as voters of a specific party and would require a two-party system, such as the US. This might enhance cooperation and remove extremes from politics. Change would happen slowly, giving contingency to politics. In a way, the most boring candidate might win as you couldn’t fish for votes by polarizing the political climate.
You could say goodbye to snarky comments about hand sizes and personalized politics altogether. 

 

Of course, this is just a thought experiment to illustrate a point. Democracies have enjoyed large support before and especially after the fall of communism. We are now blind to all of its flaws. As such, my question is: has time gone past the democratic model we’re all so used to and, if so, what could be done about it?

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