Monday, July 30, 2007
Political Parties — Debating, Campaigning and Losing Democracy
By Carlos Luken
I recently watched political debates as sophisticated as that of U.S. Democratic Party
hopefuls in the presidential candidacy race, and as humble as candidates for the governorship of the Mexican state of Baja
California. It is an unfortunate fact that regardless of both countries democratic experiences they coincide at the lowest
points. First, only the major parties are taken into account; secondly, instead of encouraging differences of opinion these
are used to promote conflict and petty rivalries; and lastly, the campaigns’ objectives seem more conducive to dishonor,
insult and indict opponents as persons instead of probing their ideas or proposals.
In all his wisdom Plato, in the “Republic,” scarcely considered that the brilliant
minds of the “chosen few” selected to lead a nation would eventually be individuals afflicted with human nature.
As such authority would soon corrupt them, and they would eventually devise and contrive methods to perpetuate their positions.
While trying to avoid the appearance of authoritarian rule, influence driven politicians created
a seemingly democratic scheme that would allow the continuance of self-rule but under their own guidance and support. Thus
political parties were born.
Since their conception, political parties have been valuable instruments for building and
perpetuating democratic societies. Unfortunately they have also been influential in sponsoring and sustaining autocracies
I believe that initially political parties were devised as constructive institutions for
preserving a group’s ideals, not their power. Presumably society’s issues would be argued upon ideally in public
forums such as ideological debates, in which problem solutions were then presented according to each party’s principles
or policy approach. Once proposals were listened to the majority would decide their own fate.
But if the present teaches anything, and after watching political donnybrooks disguised
as “debates,” one can only wonder — is this the end of democracy?
In the majority of cases a small number of dominant political parties covertly maneuver
themselves to hold hostage a nation’s political system. Once they do, they struggle to conserve power by any means possible.
At times it appears that the only subject in which politicians concur is to get the other fellow out and themselves in, and
then to remain there by any means.
Now it appears that solving a society’s problems is the farthest thing from political
minds. Partisanship under current standards requires parties to degrade, abuse and humiliate their opposition, not to argue
his ideas or proposals. In endeavoring to place any possible blame on their opposition, politicians abandon any constructive
viewpoints that can be offered, and by being obsessively hypercritical focus all dialogue on society’s hardships instead
Winston Churchill once said, “It is a very serious thing for a political party when
they are compelled in spite of themselves to hail national misfortunes as a means of advancing their cause.”
To make matters worse, the major political groups seem oblivious to the fact that by systematically
and publicly criticizing and disqualifying any opposition government, institution or official they are also injuring themselves.
As well, they are damaging institutional credibility, which is one of the foundations of government.
People nowadays are being asked to decide between lesser evils instead of better ideas.
Not an encouraging electoral incentive. It is no wonder that in most of the world’s democratic societies actual voter
numbers have plummeted to less than 50 percent of the registered vote.
Some incorrectly think that a low voter turnout helps their cause by raising their grassroots
ballot’s importance in proportion to the overall tally. This might have been true in the past but politics is by no
means an exact science and democratic diversity is in no way predictable.
After doing a thorough job degrading themselves and existing political systems, it’s
not surprising to see many democracies turn on themselves, as exasperated voters frustrated by conventional politicians lack
of integrity are pushed into exploring radical new ideas or naively yearn to believe that past evils have somehow been cleansed
and transformed into viable possibilities.
As mainstream politicians generally continue with their “business as usual”
approach to politics, small and more radical opposition elements are beginning to gain ground and it wouldn’t be surprising
for startling electoral results to materialize in the near future.
There is one universal truth in politics: integrity is always essential while notoriety
is superfluous. You may not fool all of the people all of the time, but you can exhaust all of them into prejudice and intolerance
ultimately causing democracy’s inner demise.
Carlos Luken, a MexiData.info columnist, is a Mexico-based businessman and consultant. He can
be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.