Democracy harming itself

    1042

    ‘From the US experience we must glean important lessons about how democracy can harm itself when it is hijacked by and benefits only the political elite and their businessmen friends and financiers.’

    FOUR years of Donald Trump’s egotistic leadership has led America to the brink. And there is where it will stay, for years, because the damage done over the last few years, accelerated by the rhetoric of Trump in the last four, is too deep and too serious that four years of a non-Trump administration is not enough time for healing.

    To be fair to Trump – and believe me it can be a struggle to try to assess Trump objectively – the man is not the cause of America’s troubles, but a product of it. Donald Trump was able to make a successful ascent to the pinnacle of the US political structure because that structure has failed to deliver on its promise of “the American dream” to all Americans – to the working class, to the coloreds, to the rural folk and others. It is the “revolt” of sectors of society who have been marginalized by the politics and inimical policies of the last 20-30 years that made the unlikely candidacy of Trump into an unstoppable juggernaut of anger that swept aside first the Republican Party establishment and then even that of the Democratic Party.

    Both political parties, as much as the country itself, will now have to pick up the pieces as they scan, and plot, their future.

    Students of politics everywhere else – including us here in the Philippines – should be closely studying how America descended into the “banana republic” state it almost became.

    From the US experience we must glean important lessons about how democracy can harm itself when it is hijacked by and benefits only the political elite and their businessmen friends and financiers.

    Then again, a good student of history will tell you that long before the American experience there were the French Third and the German Weimar Republicans in the 20th Century alone. Might one add our own experience between 1946 and 1972, if not more recently?

    When disillusion is widespread because institutions and processes are hijacked; when the “powerless” majority sees the well-connected take advantage of their connections to profit from the system; when the socio-economic and political elite have no sense of “moderation” of their conspicuous consumption, a Trump-like character appears.

    Lucky for America its democratic institutions and processes are proving stronger than the crazy charm of one man. Now imagine a country where institutions are quickly co-opted and corrupted, and even the police and military are happy to play along?