The democratic process?
December 18, 2015 53 Comments
Here and in Europe, we see the results of a democratic process under strain. I’m not an American and don’t feel I can comment on the candidates in depth – but goodness me, I don’t think that Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton are the two best people America has to tender for the job of CEO USA. But they are good at other stuff – publicity, fund-raising, avoiding direct answers to questions about their past, rousing the passions, both of their core support and, in another way their enemies. It isn’t quite clear what their qualifications for running a country are. Mrs Clinton got where she was because of Bill, and Mr Trump because of his business expertise; neither are necessarily qualities needed for running a country. But then what qualifications did Mr Obama have? Fine, but then what sort of job has he done? You could go back this way and get nowhere, I am told that when Mr Reagan became POTUS there were many who wondered that qualifications an actor had for that job? Well, they forgot that a big part of the job is making people ‘feel good’, and he was brilliant at that. They also forgot he’d been Governor of what was then the third largest economy in the world (I think California was that in the 60s) and was good at choosing good people to work with him. So I guess you could say that it is hard to write a person specification for the POTUS. It is for any leader in a democracy.
All democratic leaders have to be good at the winning the election thing. Now I know this won’t go down well with Neo and many of you, but it seems to me that Bill Clinton was a genius at winning elections; he didn’t have much of a clue what to do with power, but if there had not been a two term rule, he’d no doubt still be standing for election. He clearly loved electioneering and the glad-handing. But he’s also proof that whilst that can win elections, it doesn’t guarantee being able to handle power.
In the USA and Europe, it seems to me we are getting fed up of politicians who can win elections but then ignore us. These guys (and gals) promise paradise and deliver dystopia. That leads us to look with favour at insurrectionists. So here in the UK we look at the UK Independence Party, in France at the Front National. But our electoral systems ensure these people cannot win elections. However, shutting those who win huge numbers of votes out of power, simply induces even more disillusionment with the whole process of democracy.
America has a constitutional process which is, of course, designed to protect against the dangers of democracy if it is defined as rule by the majority – you have a balance of powers on the eighteenth century model. But I see increasing debate about whether it is fit for purpose in our times. I see the same thing in Europe. It is no accident that there is a grudging (sometimes) admiration for Putin. The Chinese, of course, have no intention of running a democracy like ours – they have ‘another path’.
I am no pundit, but it seems to me unless our politicians clean up their act, we could well be in the last stages of what Churchill called ‘the democratic experiment’. Tell me ‘bah humbug’ – please!