Why do people oppose democracy? - Keith Roulston editorial
As we approach (on June 6) the 78th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, a symbol of the sacrifice of my parents’ generation to restore democracy, it’s depressing to see how little regard people around the world seem to have for this precious gift.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the namesake son of the late dictator, last week appeared to be headed to a landslide victory in elections in the Philippines to replace President Rodrigo Duterte. Democracy seemed of little concern for Duterte and one wonders how much it will matter to the son of a dictator. The fact that dictators and strongmen seem to attract Philippine voters seems to question the sacrifice of 16,000 Americans who gave their lives and 47,000 who were wounded in driving out Japanese occupiers in World War II and giving democracy to the island nation.
Meanwhile, democratic Ukraine is under assault from Russia, a country that rejected Communism and briefly had a democracy in the 1990s before it became easier to just leave the governing to dictators like President Vladimir Putin, a former Communist secret agent now reputed to be the world’s richest man at a net worth of $200 billion.
The vast majority of western Europeans and North Americans take the side of Ukraine in this dispute, but a minority like past U.S. President Donald Trump still support Putin. One U.S. Republican, Senator Rand Paul, even held up voting for a relief package designed by current U.S. President Joe Biden last week, claiming that the Russian dictator was on the right side and Ukraine on the wrong.
Of course, one of the greatest concerns for democracy is in the U.S. itself, particularly with the Republican party. Many top Republicans were initially loudly appalled by the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol building by Trump’s supporters who felt the election the previous November had been stolen from Trump. Later, the same leaders swung around to support Trump, even if the evidence hasn’t changed. Trump, however, continues to claim that he was cheated and apparently, even if judges and others say he wasn’t, the repetition seems to bring him more supporters.
Democracy apparently is fragile even in NATO countries like Turkey and Hungary. Meanwhile the COVID-19 crisis led to anti-democratic responses in Cambodia and a whole list of other countries as some people have been arrested on “fake news” charges for talking about it, according to Wikipedia.
When communism collapsed in eastern Europe, it briefly seemed that democracy had won, even though communist China and North Korea continued. It wasn’t long, however, before Russians, who were ruled for hundreds of years by autocratic Tsars followed by 70 years by communist dictators, succumbed to a new dictatorship under Putin. Other countries like Hungary that had been freed from the Soviet grip, also turned their backs on at least some of the freedoms of having democracy.
Why? Perhaps democracy is too much work. It requires ordinary people to remain aware of the actions of their government and be willing to live with the momentary disruption of changing that government after an election if enough people disapprove.
It sometimes seemed that Ontario voters weren’t willing to risk change as they re-elected the Progressive Conservatives for over 40 straight years before finally trying the Liberals under Premier David Peterson and the NDP under Premier Bob Rae. Two terms for Mike Harris’s Progressive Conservatives were followed by 15 years for the Ontario Liberals under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne before the Liberals were dispatched, even losing their official party status after they won only seven seats in the election of Doug Ford as Progressive Conservative premier.
In general, democracy seems in good shape in Canada, though supporters of the NDP and other smaller parties would probably disagree. Things seem much more problematic across our southern border where Trump’s followers are changing the rules in some states to make it harder to vote for some people (like Blacks), who are likely to choose Democrats. One worries they’ll also make it easier to throw out the ballots of whole groups of voters who weren’t likely to vote for Republicans, as Trump promoted in the 2020 presidential election.
Sometimes I think it’s a blessing that nearly all of my parents’ generation, who sacrificed so much to preserve democracy, aren’t here to see how willing people seem, apparently, to give up this precious gift from one generation to those following. They saw so many lives lost to preserve the rights of ordinary people to decide who will make decisions that will affect their very lives. Such a precious gift that’s now so lightly regarded.