Monday, May 15, 2017

TRUMP AND THE EVOLUTION OF DEMOCRACY

US President Donald Trump dominated headlines this week with the sacking of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director James Comey.

The sacking raised more than a few eyebrows since traditionally the FBI director normally see his ten year term through -- Comey was appointed in 2013. The move was widely viewed as suspicious, bordering on ridiculous given that the FBI was investigating alleged ties between Trump’s associates and Russia. A tricky investigation since there are suggestions that Russian backed hackers interfered with Hillary Clinton’s campaign and may very well have handed Trump the White House.

This latest move makes it look like Trump has something to hide.

Watching this whole saga and its run up from afar, it was interesting to see how commentators were struggling not to bite their tongues. Were similar events happening in Uganda, they would be quick to call Trump’s electoral victory rigged, the word dictator would be used liberally in describing the 45th president of the USA, there would be hysterical calls for a national dialogue to heal a deeply divided nation and they would be calling for sanctions, suspension of aid and even regime change...

But It is as if the cat has got their tongues. They have refused to call a spade a spade or at least use the same standards to judge their own as they judge Africa’s leaders. The moral high ground has been lost – at least for now.

But more importantly the events in America show that democracy is an evolutionary process. And that the progress of that process is dependant more on the goodwill of the people and their leaders than the laws and legislation in place.

And secondly and relatedly it, democracy, is in a constant state of ebb and flow depending on the circumstances and players on the scene. As a result it cannot be one size fits all. That the basic tenets that support a democratic society emerge as people and societies interact and because of differences in time and place will develop differently.

So it makes little sense to insist that this country or that live up to a standard evolved in another land or hold up any one country as a paragon of democratic virtue.

Trump has shown that an individual can bully – or attempt to bully, the establishment in total disregard of the law or tradition, but the ability of the judiciary and legislature to hold Trump in check is something to watch.

Indications are that the Trump administration will test the paraphrased wisdom that it takes 200 years to build a democracy and five minutes to destroy.

The Americans and understandably so, will argue that their democracy has withstood much greater pressures and will do so again, and even come out stronger than ever.

But one has got to wonder whether with a process that delivered an outsider to the White House, foreign interests keen to subvert the same process and an electorate determined and willing to hold the Washington establishment to account, one has to believe that Trump heralds a shift in the country’s politics for better or for worse.

"For the rest of us looking on the knee jerk reaction maybe to dig in. To roll back democratic gains and try and put the brakes on the momentum towards further democratisation. That wold be ill advised even stupid...

A global momentum towards devolution and away from centralisation of power is underway. This is aided by improvements and accessibility to better communication technology.

This means the traditional power centres in government, media and other places are coming increasingly under siege and are falling before a determined but diffused attack from all angles.
The smart thing to do is to recognise that the good old days are dead and buried and embrace a new reality where there is a very really possibility for the first time in history of government of the people, by the people and for the people.


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