Threats to Democracy

President Trump appears contemptuous of the great American contribution to democratic government: Lincoln’s ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.

It is an ideal which is never easy to achieve and maintain. That is because ‘the people’ is not a coherent whole, but the summation of a lot of disparate entities. The stated intent was that all people should be treated equally without differentiating between sub-groups of the population, defined by race, religion or any other classification. Should a sub-group be excluded from such equality they should have access to remedy. Should a sub-group be enabled to circumvent those principles and in so doing, exploit the rest, it would be a clear democratic malfunction in need of correction.

We may all have been created equal, and in terms of innate potential, that certainly appears to be the case. However, relatively few people have been permitted lives where their equality has been allowed fulfilment. That is not unique to the US, but an aspect of the human condition in most societies.

Moreover, it is a widespread, if not universal, experience that a single sub-group of populations is permitted to manipulate systems for their own benefit, no matter the harm that might be done to others. That has an ancient history, but in advanced economies has become especially potent over the past four decades.

Maintaining democratic government is by no means simple and straightforward. It requires a fairly elaborate system of checks and balances, so that no individual is enabled to override the democratic system.

But that is precisely twhat Donald Trump is doing. He is taking democratic abuses to new heights. Last year, he withdrew the United States from the 2015 multinational Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. Now he has announced the breaking of the international agreement to raise trade sanctions on Iran in return for the ceasing of Iran’s nuclear development programme. Both agreements had been painfully negotiated over several years and both had contributed positively to world safety and long term security.

For the duration of Trump’s Presidency, the US can no longer be regarded as a reliable signatory of international agreements. To all intents and purposes, they are not agreements with the United States, but with the individual who is, for the time being, occupant of the White House.

Moreover, real democratic entitlement to that occupancy is now less apparent than ever before. That is the result of new technology being well ahead of its essential checks and balances, thus enabling the corruption of democracy and the rise of the most unlikely candidates to power. That is certainly not unique to the US.

These threats to democratic government need urgently to be addressed and the appropriate checks and balances firmly established. That applies across the globe. But the starting point, and the most important democratic nation state of all, would be the US, which should be seen again as fulfilling Lincoln’s dedication that hopefully, ‘shall not perish from the earth’.

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