Western democracy in serious trouble
By: Nasir Dar
The aftermath of World War II saw the world being bifurcated into two major blocks based on their economic and political ideologies. The economic world saw some jolts like the ones in the 2008 and 2020 COVID situations but survived to be with us to date. However, political ideologies have started to be shattered one after another. The world is going through some intense and exhilarating incidents which make us think about the survival of traditional democracies.
The war in Ukraine, the political fiasco in England and the election turmoil in the USA have all raised some serious questions. Western democracies became the torchbearers of traditional democracy post-World War II. They were being entrusted to secure and guide the rest of the world on the values of democracy. However, that is not the case now.
US mid-term elections 2022 are just 8 days away. This year’s elections are considered to be very vital for the country. Experts believe that these elections may well prove to be historic. However, these elections are in trouble among speculations about the results already. Al-Jazeera has reported that more than 100 lawsuits have been filed around the November 8 elections.
These lawsuits mostly challenge the methods used for voting. These lawsuits mostly target rules for mail-in voting, early voting, voter access, voting machines, voting registration, the counting of mismarked absentee ballots, and access for partisan poll watchers. Republicans are the architects of these lawsuits. Such movements have also been related to the growing fame of Donal J. Trump recently.
The United Kingdom is going through one of its worst phases in terms of democracy as Rishi Sunak overtakes the charge as their new Premier. His appointment to office came after the humiliating resignation of Liz Truss who served a record-breaking 45 days in office, the least in their history. Rishi Sunak is no cow when it comes to his staunch stand on conservative beliefs. He is no less than a Donald Trump in color.
I am not a huge fan of Democracy altogether. But the way it helped many underprivileged countries develop smoothly raised some hope. Democracy, as we all know, is a Western-born child. But it saw its growth in the rest of the world and now it is dying its sad demise slowly in the west, ironically.
The fall of western democracies has been going on for some time now. But the abrupt rise in some unprecedented incidents slowly made the fall visible to the rest of the world. The fall of the great USSR wasn’t a single failure but with the demise of socialism in the west, capitalism started taking over more rigorously which led to a slow fall of their own democracies.
It was as if the democracies which were locked in wooden gates had seen some termites landing on them, eating them gradually. The January 6 attack on US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters was the penultimate nail in the coffin. Another such attack would wipe out the entire US democracy from its roots.
Republicans have been trying to do the same for some time now. The gerrymandering and election rigging by the Republicans has been evident in the recent elections which saw Joe Biden emerging victorious. Thus, sending all of their efforts in vain. However, the threat wasn’t over in 2020. While speaking to global leaders in December 2021, President Joe Biden openly accepted that democracy was under threat. This was a no-brainer.
Everyone knew it. But, when the leader of the world’s most powerful country accepts that their 235-year-old democracy is under threat, you know things have gone out of hand. He even acknowledged that his team needed to do more to “save” democracy. Can you imagine a country that carried out mass genocides in middle-east in the quest of establishing democracies there fall-off with such embarrassment? Yes! We have seen it and we are going to see more of it. It’s irony at its peak!
So why are western democracies failing and what is the solution?
Let us try to answer the “why?”
Western democracies are too old for the modern world. The only reason why Public Administration decided to leave the blanket of Political Science in the late 1800s is that political scientists had started to realize the importance of “evolution” in the way the countries were being governed.
Woodrow Wilson must have been a proud man now if he was still alive. After all, he built a separate nest for Public Administration which is now becoming more and more significant. It is indeed the lack of evolution in western democracies that is leading to their deterioration.
The rigidity in the constitutions of western democracies has only added to their troubles. Let’s be honest, we cannot expect a 235-year-old constitution to stand tall after all these years. The world has gone to space, started to build houses on mars, and become a small village (with the advent of nimble internet and transportation) since the adoption of the US constitution. Everything changed and the western constitutions remain no exceptions. Their lack of evolution has started to have a visible impact now.
The fallacy of western democracies working well in the rest of the world has also added to the miseries of their own democracies. The West believes that the democracy which they designed is working well in other parts of the world and it should do the same in their own backyard.
However, they seem to have forgotten the state of those countries in which the west left them. A basic democracy with the sole purpose of welfare would obviously work in an underdeveloped country like India, at the time of independence, but it is not necessary for the same to work in an advanced country like the UK. Moreover, western countries think globally. This is another serious matter which they completely ignore out of prejudice. These countries need to save their own countries first before thinking about the rest of the world.
Another very important factor that has led to the slump of western democracies is their own history. These countries have a fascist history. Racism, majoritarianism, imperialism, and fascism are ingrained in their DNA.
The United Kingdom, for example, has the worst history of racism and imperialism leading to millions of deaths and sending many more to the extreme trenches of poverty. I was listening to one of the audios recently. A man, while speaking to a radio channel, in England was absolutely furious by the election of Rishi Sunak as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
He made a point about an “outsider” coming and grabbing the chair of the top leader of his country. The man on the radio was a conservative, apparently. But he was still in total disgruntlement just because of the race of Rishi Sunak. His interview is going viral and is termed hilarious. His views are being termed as funny. But if we dive a little deeper into his words, we would be able to realize the racism ingrained deep into his DNA.
Him being flabbergasted is nothing but a shred of evidence that fascism still lies deep in the roots of these western people. This is the reason why there has been an abrupt rise in neo-Nazi leaders across the west. The rise to the fame of Marine La Pen in France, the election of Donald J Trump in the USA, and the growth of a staunch immigration hater like Rishi Sunak in prominence are just a few examples of the fascism prevailing in the west. These countries have started to gradually come back to their original state of what they have been all through their history. The massive polarization in western countries has only been possible because of their notorious fascist DNA.
Let’s try to unfurl the solution to all the mess in western democracies.
The biggest favor these western democracies can do for themselves is to stop masquerading to be the global icons of democracy. They should first worry about their own countries before putting their nose the matters of other countries. Their unwanted interventions in the matters of other countries have already led to the killings of millions of people and have started to haunt them back.
The immediate solution would be to form commissions that would design new methods in democracies instead of wasting their think tank for the rest of the world. The strategic changes in the way countries need to be ruled should start from their own backyard.
The biggest reason for the downfall of the democracies in the entire world is the fact that the governments started to derail from their real purpose. We all know that democracies were formed to transform society into welfare. Thus, helping their people grow better. But, sadly, people around the globe started to accept their democratically-elected leaders as heroes.
We must never forget that democratic leaders are supposed to be servants of their respective nations. Unfortunately, that is not the case now. Democracy is no more treated as a system. It is no more seen as an ongoing process. But democracy goes through leaders now.
The modern world has given us charismatic leaders who can turn elections on their own. Their names are enough to win elections for any party. And, when a country is ruled by someone elected without considering his political, economic or historical base, the country does not remain a democracy anymore.
This is the type of government that we call an “authoritarian” form of government. We can see such governments in many parts of the world. If democracies around the globe want to save themselves, then they need to get rid of such “authoritarian” leaders and give way to the traditional form of democracy as a form of government and as a continuous process.
We can look at more solutions to the problem as well. One of the reasons for the success of democracy in the rest of the world is the multi-party system. This gives stability and a sense of inclusiveness to all forms of political ideologies. West has a history of a two-party system. Such a system won’t work in modern times. We live in a century where two genders have turned into multiple genders so democracies can also transform themselves from a two-party system to a multi-party system.
The west needs to start breaking down the barriers. Start by embracing immigrants. Because that is what a utopian form of democracy would do. The state of war immigrants in the west is abysmal and needs to change immediately. The cultural wars that the west initiated to build their soft-hegemony need to stop immediately. This would make the world a better place to live.
The west needs to acknowledge its past and start calling out the traitors. Both their historic and modern traitors. We cannot expect the UK to build a firm democracy without accepting its historic crimes and its modern sins. The same is true for the countries like US and France.
One of the biggest threats to modern democracies is “spying capitalism”. The likes of Facebook and Google pose an imminent threat to democracy as they are easily able to influence the governance and people. Digital misinformation goes unnoticed. These organizations are living their lives with absolute impunity. They need to be watched and regulated properly. People’s privacy needs to be respected. Digital spying needs to be criminalized. These crony capitalists need to be shown their place.
It is evident that western democracies are going through a serious decline. Things need to be turned around before it is too late. The best way is to go back to basics. Democracies need to start by building welfare, inclusive and ever-evolving governance. Change is the ultimate truth of the world and democracies need to start accepting it. The sooner the better.
(The author is a research scholar on the impact of Public Administration on International Relations)