What you mean for Biden
Half America, in round figures, voted for D Trump. Whatever else you call him – and we do call him many things – Democratic is not what comes immediately to mind. The millions of votes cast in his favour are probably not too worried about what Democracy means. What, actually, does it mean? A vote for each person, we tell our children and grandchildren. If we explain in more detail “a vote” becomes “a free and secret vote”. A vote unencumbered by the influence of anyone else.
Except, of course, you ARE a Republican or you ARE a Communist. But it’s not really like that, is it? A friend in a far-off country admires the current administration but doesn’t “support” it. Why? Because traditionally, and for quite good reasons, he has been a supporter of the Other Side. And that’s the trouble with party politics. “Which side are you on?” Most people end up voting ‘against’ instead of ‘for’. A vote ‘for’ would be better politics, wouldn’t it?
Those of us left of centre, who want to change many things in Conservatism or Republicanism, find ourselves voting for the one we think we know and that embodies modest protection of our way of life and that of our growing family. Radical changes are not for busy people for whom politics is a necessary but marginal part of life. When it becomes a major part, we want to be able to express our views, too, regardless of whether they are in tune with the popular or not.
If only we could separate the fundamentals from the vox. For example, human rights is not a political issue, it is a human one. How we treat other people is not subject to what makes the fastest dollar. Or is it? In Shanghai I think it is. Efficiency and return on capital can always be increased by cutting costs on workers. Diminish the socially acceptable and you will make more money. Where does human rights sit in our thinking about politics?
And what does our personal behaviour have to do – if anything – with how we vote?
The somewhat quelling report of Freedom House on ‘the decline of democracy’ is a clue. This organisation reports every year. This year’s compelling offering is called Freedom in the World 2020: A leaderless struggle for democracy. You get the idea from the title. The report tells us that this is the 14th consecutive year of deterioration in political rights and civil liberties. Global freedom, we conclude, is on the decline.
Small wonder when unruly mobs are threatening the safety and integrity of our homes and our passage on the streets. You and I may not be part of these demonstrations – but then again, we also may be. If our favourite sport is threatened or we feel strongly about Assistant Nurses being paid less than a living wage we might demonstrate. Our excuse: that others are achieving what they want by this method; we would be fools not to.
They call it adaptability and it is a prerequisite to survival in a changing world. So we adapt and become like the rest. Less violent, perhaps.
If Democracy is on the wane, are human rights, too? Is independent and integrated law in decline as well? Are the standards of behaviour towards another person deteriorating? And do these three things have anything to do with each other? As long as Democracy stands for more than one person one vote, they certainly do, even if we don’t like them nailed so firmly to an American political party.
The rise of unfreedom is causing us to see increasing world protests for better governance. And yet what authorises thuggery governance is personal bad behaviour. The protest in which we are asking for better behaviour is itself an example of worse behaviour. It gives rise to deceptive pragmatism in politics, as Jana Ganesh says in his 24Nov20 Financial Times article.
It doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is what it calls us to do.