Thursday, 19 January 2017

Trumped

It's been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Tomorrow we will witness the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th US president. Despite electoral college results and the possibility - or likelihood - of foreign interference in the election, Trump was duly elected. What does this say about the American electorate? American democracy? Or democracy in general?

We tend to view democracy as being election-based. Of course, fair and free elections are integral to democratic forms of government. However democracy means much more then just electoral results. It means that elected officials are accountable to the electorate both before and after the elections, and that elected officials pursue policies that provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. It also means that aware and empowered citizens interact with elected officials and provide essential input to legislation and policy.

Let's not forget that Hitler was democratically elected in 1932. As we know, he used his electoral victory to abolish all semblance of democracy in Germany and beyond. Trump may not be Hitler, but we have seen him embrace intolerance, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. All of these run counter to the principle of providing the greatest good for the electorate.

So forget the Russians, and the electoral college. Let's acknowledge that Trump won the election fair and square. It is incumbent on American citizens to hold their new president accountable, to "hold his feet to the fire," and to ensure that he adheres to democratic values.

Democracy doesn't end when the election is over. It continues.