Democracy: Is it just a theory?

Arguably, countless eyes around the globe are gaping at one country and its upcoming presidential election. Some non-Americans are taking sides – rooting for Barack Obama or John McCain. Others are just questioning the definition of democracy.

From India, Satyajit writes in his blog, Ragamuffin that the U.S. is “the land of premature eclapulation.” He defines “premature eclapulation” as “the process of clapping, during events such as plays, operas, and orchestral performances when the climax of the moment or the moment most appropriate for ovation has not yet been reached.” He speaks about the idea of the Electoral College and questions the democracy that the U.S. speaks so highly of.

“Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, U.S. citizens cast votes for electoral college representatives, known as electors. While electors are theoretically free to vote for the candidate of their choice, in practice they pledge to vote for specific candidates. ha ha. Have you heard of anything funnier in a democracy?”

For another non-American, the issue of democracy hit closer to home. Elen Ghulam, an Iraqi now living in Canada, writes in her blog, Ihath, about a time when her family was democratic.

“Since we were growing up in an undemocratic country my father decided that he would teach us about democracy by instating it in our family. “We are a democratic family”, my father declared with pride one day. Every Thursday evening, the family central council would meet to discuss issues set in the agenda. Each member of the council could speak up about his/her opinion on a given matter and after each person made his or her arguments, the council would vote. That is how we decided on family vacations, which restaurant to have lunch at on the weekend and family purchases. Over time a clear balance of power emerged. There was the party of the kids and the party of the parents. It seemed that my brother and I always voted the same way and my mother and father voted together. This young democratic experiment was a happy one …… well only for a little while. Historically, transition to democracy is frequently associated with political and social upheaval and the transition from monarchy and feudalism to giving power to the common person is fraught with difficulty. Our family was not above the tragedy of the human history.”

Ghulam then goes on to write about the time, her family suddenly became “undemocratic.” She writes about how, as a child, her and her sibling wanted a dog but her father refused and stated that as the “bread-winner of the house hold” he had the ultimate power.

“From then on, we called my father’s democracy the one-legged democracy. A democracy where the little people got to decide on matters of little consequence but got ignored on the really important issues.”

Whether the U.S. is a true democracy or simply a country where “little people” decide on inconsequential issues, will be determined in a few short months.

1 comment

  • This is partly the crux of the matter! But we can give your story a deeper thought hence meanings. “Over-flogging leadership role might deny the very leader, who might actually also add to changes the contradictory dynamism of what democracy carries with it.

    Association of politics with ‘power’ grafted along the lines of social Darwinism: ‘real’ some people would argue, I believe must be re-examined from time to time in the dynamism of change itself. It could also mean prospecting the hidden talents and “grace” yet to be discovered, but not until the fancies of leadership are not too misconceived, overblown or overdriven – in a political mid-field change’ argument, nothing else!

    Democracy is very theoretical. It is also translatable into practice but then it is the quality of governance that ultimately matters – when we look beyond “your type of family experiment”. We hardly benefit if sustainability and peace are put out of context as we seek to transform and respect acceptability. “Top-down” and bottom-up” elements therefore unduly frighten – which need not be the case, because, we appreciate the logic of representation and voting – parts of the processes out of which the results of the governing experiments are judged by the governed or civil society, especially if we theorize from experience that irrespective of your background, every historical governing period equals a period of experiment. Democracy is therefore invigorating for the change it brings to the process – giving people the chance for alternatives! I do not doubt the fact that anyone given the opportunity of experiment knows that the opportunity given is in trust and so it is costly not to joke with!

    In the American case, it is the governing process of the past eight years and the challenges – the immense burdens peoples in and out feel, that make concrete the theme of change at this time around, it does not end there either, since interest groups often cluster into what we call ‘party systems’ in politics. This is larger than the family analogy, and so in the American case we talk about the ‘Democrats’ and the ‘Republicans’. Each of them is defining the change that the voters and the outside world, in my opinion will reflect seriously on, but not without some recourse to the morale of the eight years soon to end.

    It is also the question of how people perceive the problems before them and rally round the idea of change, understanding that in that idea, the leadership for change is a “dependent” variable, because he – the leader] in this case will be surrounded by cabinet members, political advisers, responsible congress – meaning that his executive role meanders through many channels: the legislature and judiciary, among other, immediate and remote….! Therefore while it is necessary to emphasize leadership role and not assume too much, at the end of it all, it is the whole team of advisers, the quality of the cabinet and active, but responsible congress conscious of the change wanted, which then means the case of the veto rights of the chief executive is reduced with integrity, because conscientious consensuses are working. See it as a new post-modern era reality: a less conservative but effective “fathering” of the nation. In situations like these a leadership with GRACE is one of the greatest SOCIAL CAPITALS American voters should not be made to forget as they might need this time to win the world and their place back, and strengthen democracy and peace and moderated, but linear economic growth and progress. All these are in democracy – as we look beyond your family example, telling as it is! Democracy can also therefore benefit from statements such as “I need my vice president working mate to challenge my views” – all for the good of democracy we did see effective in the outgoing administration, a part of the reasons for where we are now.

    Lawrence Efana [Finland]

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