Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What exactly is democracy?

Suppose someone tells you Barack Obama should not be President of the United States. Why not? Because democracy is not just votes, but it is also values. And Barack Obama is too socialist to qualify to lead the United States. Your answer should be that the voters of the United States are the only party fit to judge whether or not Obama is too socialist or if his socialism should or should not bar him from the presidency. Further, you should answer that the voters of the United States voted to give Obama a four year term and during that term he, and only he, is authorized by the voters to carry out the duties outlined in US governing documents as the responsibilities of the holder of that office. In an extraordinary circumstance, the elected legislature of the United States has the authority to remove Obama from office. Failing that, democracy means Obama serves the term he was elected to.

Democracy does not mean "good". The United States was founded as a white-supremacist state with a slave labor based economy dedicated to taking by force over two billion acres of land from Native Americans. The United States is, as I write this, directing a civil war in Syria that has caused over 100,000 Syrian people to die. The United States is openly and thoroughly dedicated to the idea that preventing fewer than six million Jewish people in Israel from suffering the indignity of living under non-Jewish rule the way white South Africans live under non-white rule is worth any amount of suffering, dictatorship and restriction of rights and liberties for the hundreds of millions of people in Israel's region who are not Jewish. The United States is a bigoted nation. The United States is not a good nation. The United States is an evil nation according the the values the US itself claims to uphold. But the United States is a democracy.

Apartheid South Africa was in the 1940s, like the United States, a racist democracy. Nazi Germany, until the decree that its leadership was no longer subject to removal by voters, was a democracy. Democracy does not mean good. Democracy does not mean values.

Democracy means policy-makers can be emplaced and removed in an orderly fashion according to pre-established procedures by voters. Therefore to remain in positions to make and execute policy, officials are accountable to the people of the country, in effect to the voters. And really that's all democracy means. Democracy leads to secular governments in countries whose voters prefer secular government. Democracy leads to socialist government if the voters prefer socialism. Democracy means anti-socialism if and only if the voters of the country express that they prefer an anti-socialist government. Democracy means Islamism in a country where Islamists can or do outvote anti-Islamists.

If you or I believe government should be secular, and the voters of a country believe their government should be Islamic, then democracy means a government you or I don't like should be in power in that country.

The United States is in an interesting position, being the most vigorously active anti-democratic nation in the world while at the same time claiming democracy as one of its founding principles. No nation does more outside of its borders to oppose the idea that the policy makers of a country should be accountable the people of that country than the United States does in Israel's region on behalf of Israel. The United States has for decades supported relatively pro-Israel dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and others because governments accountable to their people in those countries might pose strategic threats ultimately to Israel.

In order to resolve the tension between claiming democracy as a value and opposing policy-makers being accountable to voters In Israel's region, Western commentators distort the definition of democracy itself.

From there we get the statement: democracy is not about elections, it is about values. I've only heard this statement made in the context of countries in the Middle East, and then to justify denying the people of countries in the Middle East the ability to hold policy-makers accountable in elections. Egypt's military should remain accountable not to the elected officials of Egypt, but to the US Embassy and military bases in Egypt and the US in order to protect Israel from Egypt's voters.

Claims that Mohammad Morsi or the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were not democratic, coming from sources that did not offer such criticisms to either Hosni Mubarak during the 30 years that he had US support or Saudi Arabia today, including Barack Obama who refused to call Mubarak a dictator, are transparent advocacy of Egyptian policy being accountable, on behalf of Israel, to the United States and not to the voters of Egypt.

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