Russian president Vladimir Putin must be smiling a lot these days. A devoted former KGB agent who is convinced that democracy as a governing concept is inferior to its communist counterpart is increasingly being proven right by custodians of democracy.
In the battle between the two forms of governance, augmented by decades-long cold war between the east and the west, democracy won when in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union disintegrated with it.
Up until that point, the idea that competing political parties contested national elections based upon facts and ideology was by far the most attractive between the two. The other depended on mostly a one-party state that suppressed dissent and governed by instilling fear in those who might voice opposing views.
Three decades later, democracy is imploding almost everywhere because winning has become a business-like deliverable regardless of the resonance of party’s ideology with the people.
It doesn’t appear to matter much these days if a political party’s ideology has fallen out of favor with the people so long as campaign managers and politicians can do whatever it takes to etch out a win at the polls.
It is arguable that contemporary democracy was birthed in the United States. Some say various forms of it were used in different parts of the world much earlier than the very history of United States.
What is undisputed is that the United States is the highest profiled country not only using the system, but actively promoting it around the world.
On paper democracy makes perfect sense. Who can argue with the idea of a government by the people, of the people, and for the people? Around the world, various political ideologies have all coagulated into a left or right movement.
If you favor more government control and responsibility of the people’s lives to ensure more egalitarian policies, chances are that you favor what they call leftist ideology.
Conversely, if you favor more Laissez-faires approach where the government does as little as necessary and leaves the markets to shape the economy, you’re headed in the “right” direction – no pun intended.
But what we are seeing over the last dozen or so years has thrown water all over the sanctity of this concept.
First, there have been many instances of crisscrossing whereby left-leaning parties have pursued right-leaning policies and vice versa.
In the United States the left-leaning Obama administration bailed out big business to the chagrin of the little guy while in Ghana, the left-leaning National Democratic Congress has vehemently opposed egalitarian policies implemented by the right-leaning New Patriotic Party – go figure.
Analysts say these are to be expected because upon assuming office, a political party must address the pressing need at the time without an obstinate adherence to policies which might augment existing problems.
That means if Ghana’s New Patriotic Party sees the need to educate all children with a basic education in order to achieve its long term goal of an educated citizenry, damn if others feel that the Free Senior High School policy is typically a left-leaning policy; it will implement it.
But the ideological crisscrossing is not even the biggest problem facing democracy today.
In an interview with CBS News, President Barack Obama in expressing concern about the 73 million people who voted for Donald Trump, said “it’s very hard for our democracy to function if we are operating on just completely different sets of facts.”
Indeed facts do not matter any longer in elections, and the problem is not unique to the United States. And apparently neither does principles.
In Ghana, a former president dies and the very people who hurled insults at him are now outdoing themselves showering praises at him in the hopes of earning sympathy votes in an upcoming election.
Most countries now feature two main political parties aligned with the left/right divide. And their followers are comfortable to believe their leaders’ version of “truth” even after it has been factually debunked.
Media houses used to report statements from politicians as they are delivered because honor still dominated political discourse. Today the term “alternate facts” has prompted a counter from media houses with “Fact Check.”
Social media organizations such as Twitter and Facebook who came into prominence with their real-time platforms that enable politicians to communicate filter-free with their citizens have also had to install fact-checking systems to weed out intentional misinformation campaigns to distort the truth and unduly influence voters.
On this trajectory, it remains to be seen where democracy is headed. Winning political power today has become an end-justifies-the-means endeavor. So long as a politician wins, no questions are asked because in power, he or she can manipulate the oversight institutions to bend in his/her directions.
Would custodians of democracy prove Putin right?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Jermaine Nkrumah – DNT.