Democracy is great – but the devil is in the detail

When democracy gives us a result we approve of we embrace it, when it doesn’t we worry about it. However at the heart of the debate is the detail not the principle. In 2016 democracy delivered Trump the White House and the British people Brexit. In both cases there were huge flaws in the processes and, to some extent, the principle of the votes.

Hillary Clinton won the Presidential ballot by two million votes. But the serendipity of the electoral system denied her the Presidency. In Britain the winning side in the referendum lied to the electorate and there were dirty tricks. And the people didn’t know what we were voting for because nobody knew what we were voting for. At the very least there should have been a confirmatory plebiscite once the terms were known and the irregularities of the vote had been investigated.

“Democracy” is not a simple concept except at the most abstract level – “Citizens should choose their Government “ – that sort of thing. But how they make that choice is what really matters.

Too many votes in Britain don’t count because of FPTP. Because of the Electoral College in America a Republican vote in California or a Democrat vote in Wyoming doesn’t count. It doesn’t have to be like this. The Electoral College is actually anti-democratic and in 21st Century America wholly unnecessary.

There are well-tried voting systems that if applied at a British General Election would give an outcome that more accurately reflect the electorate’s collective wishes. And simplistic Yes/No referendums on highly complex issues wouldn’t happen because they would be unnecessary if we had a Parliament which more accurately reflected the people in its composition.

2 thoughts on “Democracy is great – but the devil is in the detail

  1. I grew up believing in democracy. My parents and grandparents fought and died in wars to uphold democracy. Whilst at Uni. I began to change my mind. I’m in the mid-seventies now and throughout life, I have questioned if democracy is really such the beacon of light we should all be illuminated with. Remember Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany.
    Many nations appear to manage quite well without it. It only seems to matter if you really think it matters.
    Rule of law, independent judiciary and the separation of powers matter more. Democracy screws things up. Trump, Brexit, Johnson, Adolf Hitler.
    The recent history of “democracy” as we know it indicates that perhaps it’s time we all considered change and figured out something better. We can defeat Covid with vaccine and go to Mars why not a better political system?
    I would suggest Churchill’s dictum is old hat. It simply suits the men in power to continue with the same old same old.
    I once saw some graffiti daubed on a wall in Islington in the sixties which I have never forgotten. It said “If voting ever changed anything they would make it illegal”.

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  2. I live in Germany where the proportional representation system seems t work very well by the avoidance of any ‘crazy’s having say over a status quo. It may be boring but………….

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