When The Ignorant Are In The Majority, Democracy Slides Towards Autocracy.

Abdulai Mansaray, author

The ancient Greeks are credited with inventing democracy, “Demos kratos” which literally translates to “people power” as a form of government. Some therefore describe democracy as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. If this premise is true, it literally means that in a democratic government, every issue must be voted on by the people. In the real world, do citizens vote for every issue? Citizens do not, but instead elect representatives who vote on matters for them. There lies the paradoxical irony of democracy; an illusion that it is a form of government that guarantees people power. Unlike other democracies across the world, the majority or popular vote in America does not decide who becomes president. That decision lies in the hands of 270 individuals, who apparently decide on the wishes of 331.9 million people.    

There is an increasing lack of democracy pervading the political world these days. It’s not surprising therefore that the world is witnessing political upheavals because of the anger at political elites. This anger is fuelled by economic dissatisfaction and anxiety about rapid social changes. Social media has given us a world that is constipated with a wealth of information but bankrupt in wisdom. In a world that is saturated with Computer Generated Images, memes, emojis, podcasts, blogs, artificial Intelligence etc, it is safe to say that our lives are now remote- controlled by the click of a button. The world is so upside down that when we access some internet sites, machines are asking us to prove that we are humans and not robots like them.

The controversial notion that we (humans) are not alone on this planet remains one of the most surviving conspiracy theories in history. The media is awash with “proofs” about the existence of aliens; “proofs” that are always dismissed as conspiracy theories. We see terrorism as the greatest existential threat to society. Interestingly, it is technological advancement that is paradoxically becoming the insidious threat to society. The use of AI will mark the beginning of the end of democracy as we know it. In today’s world, Infowars, disinformation, misinformation, lies, deceit, have become the palm oil with which democracy is eaten. With America prancing itself as the world’s High Priest of democracy, it is so disheartening to see this democracy demolished brick by brick by the same purveyors.

America will go to the polls in November this year. It will be an understatement to say that America is at crossroads with itself and at risk of mutating into a specimen that will test its democratic credentials to breaking point.  With a changed media landscape, a form of politics that has become alarmingly acrimonious, and with many institutions competing to show how dysfunctional they have become, it is safe to conclude that American democracy, like many others is in crisis. The fallacy that democracy is about majority rule has never been better demonstrated than by America.  This illusion of American democracy was ably demonstrated by its electoral system which produced in a single generation, TWO PRESIDENTS who received fewer votes than their opponents. Denying the popular vote is undemocratic.

It is four years since America had its last general election in 2020. Assistance from malicious actors inside and outside America, have and continue to declare the election result illegitimate. We see America loosening its grip on reality as technology replaces common sense. The emergence of Donald Trump, a man with no regard for the values of justice or the rule of law has provided a fertile ground for the resurgence of the nativist far right, which is the greatest threat to America today. America now faces the risk and threat of political self-cannibalism.

America will choose between Trump and Biden in November. Trump is 77 and the current record holder when he was elected at 70 in 2016. Joe Biden is 81 years old. Both are competing to prove that they are not senile, as they mumble, bumble and stumble over name mix-ups, events, and behaviours to defy their candidature for nursing home residency. While voters continue to express concerns about their cognitive functioning, their paid-up personal physicians have been doing their best to allay voters’ fears and doubts about their fitness to execute the duties of the Presidency. Trump’s physician describes his health as “excellent” while Biden’s said in a recent report that his boss is a “healthy, active, robust, 81-year-old male who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency”. When you see how these two have ably demonstrated their cognitive decline over the years, you wonder whether these “professionals” are talking about the same people we see and listen to daily.

Former President Obama is a living testament to the fact that the White House is a grey hair inducing establishment. Both Biden and Trump went in with grey hair, sorry one went with ginger hair and look what we got after that? Jokes aside, America is politically trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. Donald Trump is facing 91 criminal counts in four separate prosecutions. No American President or former President had ever been indicted. Over a five-month period, Trump has been accused of several wide-ranging criminal conduct before, during and after his presidency. Phew.

On the other hand, Biden may have presided over the tail end of the Covid pandemic. His employment rate record is astounding. Recently, his position on the ongoing conflict in Palestine has left a bitter taste in the mouths of so many. Biden’s recent attempts to rein in Israel, knowing the risk of being dragged out of office by the conflict has proved ineffectual. Democrats are becoming uncomfortable with the ongoing situation. It is no wonder that some have started putting their heads over the parapet to voice their silently held views. What worries many democrats is the boomerang effect Trump’s indictments is having on his base. It is beginning to feel like his supporters have a crush on criminal indictments. Rather than dampen his support, Trump continues to be emboldened by the polls among Republicans. Trump literally won his presumed nomination unopposed, while portraying himself as the victim of a political witch hunt.

Sadly, for America, it is going to face one of its extremely difficult elections in recent times. This election will test the real strength of democracy as a political concept in America. It will also give a view of the political acumen of Americans as a nation. In recent times and during his presidency, Europe and certain countries in Latin America saw the reemergence and resurgence of populist parties, and far right organisation crawling back from the crevices of political inertia, and on to mainstream political discourse. Trump’s tenure in the White House did not only legitimise hate but gave succour and life support to these groups. He continues to masquerade as their messiah and focal point to promote their angst against “the establishment”. With Trump casting doubts on the November 2024 election results even before a ballot has been cast, you wonder what the outcome would be if January 6th was a litmus test for American democracy.

During his first foray into politics, Trump promised to “make America great again”. Is he running this time to “make America great again”? No. This time, Trump is running a criminal immunity racket to evade legal accountability. Throughout his campaigns and rallies in this election cycle, his rantings have been about witch hunt postings, about how the January 6th provocateurs have been unfairly treated, and about the deep state conspiring against him.  There has been no discussion about politics or policies to promote his signature illusion to “make America great again”. Trump’s focus this time is about evading justice and he sees the American presidency as his main coat of armour to insulate him against accountability. He has successfully sown seeds of doubt in the fairness of the American criminal justice system. This is why most Americans are outraged and confused about his multiple trials, even though many don’t seem to care much about them.

Is Trump an existential threat to democracy and the rule of law?

This is where America finds itself at crossroads with democracy. With seeds of doubt sown about the credibility and impartiality of the Supreme Court, America’s self-fulfilling accolade as the world’s chief defender of democracy and the rule of law will be tested to its limit. Many will focus on the fairness and neutrality of the Supreme court when it comes to adjudicate on Trump’s legal perils. Even though his crimes are as overwhelmingly obvious as night and day, the question will be about whether Trump is immune from prosecution. Most of the Supreme Court personnel were appointed during Trump’s term of office. It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court will let Trump escape his legal accountability, given that many see the court as a partisan political institution these days. In effect, Trump is not on trial here. What is on trial is America’s democracy and the rule of law.

It is obvious that the outcome of Trump’s trials will have repercussions that will reverberate across the world. America is facing judgement day as the potency of its constitution to keep the United Sates united is put through one of its sternest tests. Trump’s immunity theory is not only ridiculous but holds water like a basket. There are those who believe that a civil war will break out if Trump is convicted and jailed. With mass shootings becoming a common occurrence in America, it is plausible to conclude that America is engaged in an arms race with itself. With first time gun owners on the rise, data shows that 39% of American households own guns, up from 32% in 2016. What for? Oh, it’s their constitutional right “to bear arms”.

Ironically, Trump can still be in jail as a sitting President if he wins the election and gets convicted during the same election cycle. The American constitution inexplicably makes room for such an anomaly. It is therefore naïve to see this sorry saga as an exercise of Trump on trial. Trump is not on trial. What is on trial is American democracy and the rule of law. Will the supreme court sacrifice the constitution, the rule of law and in effect its democracy for political expediency? What we have in America today is two wolves and a sheep squabbling on what to have for breakfast. H.L Mencken once wrote, “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron”.

When the founders of American democracy worried about the vulnerability of democracy to populist demagogues, did they envision a president like Donald Trump? Unlike other countries like France, which went through political rites of passage including absolute and constitutional monarchy, Napoleonic autocracy, Bourbon restoration, and conservative republic, America made a success of establishing a free, stable, and constitutional government by launching a revolution.  However, in a country where ignorance is as good as knowledge, will this cult of ignorance in the United States be its final undoing?

Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.