Democracy is NOT an absolute Good
I crossposted it on DailyKos .
It's not terribly applicable here as I doubt many would disagree with me (I think). But because I just posted it there, I wanted to be fair and bring it here.
This is in a way a supplemental to Hamas is not the Answer. by Lucius Vorenus. I'd like to address the absurd notion that Democracy itself is an Absolute Good, that it can do no wrong and must be respected in all instances regardless of the outcome.
Democracy (or government by the people, the many, etc) is an absolutely essential tool for the people to keep their government accountable. Without any adjectives it can be used for both Good and Evil (in the loose and non-religious definition of those words). Here in US we are much more partial to the Liberal Democracy which is practically synonymous to the Constitutional Republic.
There are many types of Democratic governments in the World and their number is growing. Most of them are still in the West and those are of course the most Liberal (not in the US political definition of a liberal sense). When I say Liberal Democracy, I mean a Democracy that constitutionally protects the rights and freedoms of its individuals from each other, from the Government, and from the Democratic process itself.
In this diary I will briefly focus on the possible negative aspects of the democratic process. It is true that some of such democratic endeavors have been conducted either in adverse conditions or with imperfect oversight and potential fraud by the nefarious powers with most to gain or protect.
The purpose of a morally conducted Democracy is not only to be accountable to its people but also to protect its people from oppression and defend their individual rights. An intelligently designed Democracy would have constitutional safeguards to protect itself from a majoritarian subversion of such protections. Such Democracy for example would limit the power of its leaders through checks and balances, term limits, and other laws preventing abuse and tyranny. This way if in such a hypothetical democracy the people are saddled with a warmongering incompetent, they would be happy to know that not only his rule would eventually be over, but that they would have other governmental bodies and laws preventing the incompetent from becoming a miniature King or Emperor.
In such a morally created Democracy people would be safe to know that no matter what crisis they found themselves in, their government would not have a legal path towards a dictatorship, nor would it start rounding people up and executing them in camps or on the streets or whatever other craven way without severest repercussions.
So why am I using such loaded terms as a "morally conducted or created" Democracy? Well that is because that it is obviously possible to have a democratic process that runs afoul of the most basic human decency and makes a mockery of the idea that this process is serving a government for the people. Yes, a winning minority, or even a majority of people are not Perfect and can make horrific choices that eventually cause destruction of human rights, discrimination, violence, death, and even genocide. The basic morality I am invoking is that of holding all those horrific repercussions in check and making them an Impossibility through the rule of Law and consent of the governed people. The good government is elected to serve its people so in my mind terrorizing them, even for something as simple as "consolidation of power" or "preventing a coup" is absolutely antithetical to the premise of using the democratic process.
There is a rather interesting case of an imperfect democracy striving to defend itself in a moderately precarious situation. Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy but has a strong Islamic cultural and religious identity and history. What is interesting is that the Turkish military is considered to be the guardians of the secular Republic, and the protection of the consitution is given to them by Law. They stand ready to intervene and take charge should any unconstitutional misuse of power occur (or if the separation between government and religion is seriously blurred), only to relinquish their power to the secular authorities willing to abide by the constitution.
Moving on to the perversion of the Democratic process, the Theocracy of Iran for example is using the Democratic process to bamboozle the outside observers into believing that a certain element of free will is accorded to its population and thus their rulers are at least modestly accountable to its people. Nothing can be further from the truth as all the real power is held by the Supreme Leader Ali Khameni and his Council of Guardians. Therefor an electoral outcome in such a country, whichever way it turns, is nothing but a fraud on everyone involved and especially on the longsuffering Iranian people. There is nothing to praise in their elections and indeed those results cannot even be used for the measurement of the public mood, but instead are a reflection of what the Iranian rulers want the outsiders to believe at that particular time to suit their long term interests.
Invoking the Nazi example is essential in this case of pointing out bad democratic results, as the National Socialists did achieve a plurality of the vote, were able to cobble up a slim majority government, and in effect forced President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany. It light of what had happened since it is obvious that Germany did not have the Liberal Democratic protections for the individual rights, and had no other checks in place to prevent a destruction of the system that started the process of putting such disgusting people into power. One could claim that perhaps many Germans were swindled by the glowing promises of the economic and cultural revival and that the true nature of the Nazi party was not evident in the runup to their increased dominance, but there was no excuse for allowing what happened next and the German nation bore its heavy guilt ever since.
What has happened in Iraq has been a travesty on many different levels but one of the more foolish decisions by our current administration has been the implementation of an idea of democratic elections on the Iraqis. While they have tried to moderate their mistake by forcing through an adoption of the constitution, it has been ruefully inadequate for setting up an adequate Government palatable to most of the people and such that would be able to effectively govern. Not all people are automatically ready for the democratic process, especially a people separated into three distinct factions, multiple ethnicities, and a bloody history between them. A country would have to be much more stable, with bloody enmity forgotten, and people interested in working together for such an idea to work but obviously those in charge of this debacle did not care for such minor considerations.
This brings us to Hamas, their electoral victory, and their past and recent actions. I am not going to recount all of the bloody deeds this terrorist group is responsible for but needless to say they are many. What is amazing is that there are many people on this site who are perpetuating the notion that because Hamas won an electoral victory through the democratic process, they are a legitimate government of the Palestinians and thus must be respected. Some are even claiming that their bloody rampage through Gaza was a simple consolidation of power out of necessity forced on them by the possible Fatah Coup. Others say that because they provide humanitarian services to the Palestinian people, they deserve some respect and were the better choice to lead that poor and beleagered people. What has really happened, however, is that the Democratic Process has hiccuped and served up the face of true evil that has no pretense about any human rights or respect for the process that elected them.
Respect and Recognition are not free and automatically accorded for following a certain procedure, but is earned and any self-respecting nation SHOULD not perpetuate a fraud by recognizing a terrorist gang of thugs as the proper government of any Nation or People. This does not mean we automatically need to overthrow such government, not at all unless it presents a real and immediate threat to our safety, which Hamas undoubtedly does not. But this turn of events should certainly preclude us from recognizing the legitimacy of such a despicable group, and working with other peace-seeking individuals amongst the Palestinians towards a better government seeking a peaceful resolution and conclusion to the P/I strife. Reasoning rationally from according respect to an elected terrorist gang simply because they were elected would lead us to possibly according respect to Nazi and Communist thugs around the world and that is simply unacceptable.
Some will say that we have dealt with USSR and Communist China that have both slaughtered millions of their own people and were much more significant threats to the World Peace than puny Hamas would ever aspire to. The reason we dealt with them (and we certainly did not send them financial aid like some are claiming we should send to Hamas) was precisely because they were big enough to be a threat to the World Peace, and all our dealings were towards defusing that threat through whatever means possible.
Democracy is a tool. It is a morally neutral tool capable of both good and bad results. It is also an essential tool for a Free People that respects itself and the minorities amongst it. Let us not worship at the altar of Democracy to the detriment of the democratic process itself and condemn the results it produces when they are worth condemning. Let us also support the creation and strengthening of the Liberal Democracies around the World that uphold the human rights we all should enjoy.