Democracy is a very complex system. It is the distillation of centuries of dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies and political violence harshly opposed to the human aspiration to freedom and social development. A considerable part of mankind has been able to break the chains of oppression and the world consecrated human rights as the most important engagement of humanity with itself to defend each and every human being as an equal. This seems simple and is taken for granted by those who have never lived under regimes that have tortured and murdered their own citizens. This is why questioning the essence of democracy, where it is a solid pillar of society, is dangerous and profoundly undemocratic.
Democracy is even more complex in large and diverse countries such as the US and India. In the US, it is impossible to rig an election because there are 50 elections across 50 states, each with different populations, demographics, history, political traditions, and even voting systems. We have seen in other countries undemocratic sore losers question their defeat, triggering instability, havoc, and sometimes even a civil war. But not in an advanced democracy such as the US. But what is pathetic is to call foul even before the game is afoot. Imagine Brazil claiming its semi-final with Germany was rigged before they lost 7:0 at the World Cup. Sore losers in sports are disturbing, in politics outrageously perilous. This goes beyond the electoral systems, where the will of the people needs to be respected. This said, the extremes have a tendency to try to hold the moral high ground that is in no way theirs. Those who question democracy, from the extreme left to the extreme right, are the true enemies of liberty.
If there is a country that knows about diversity in democracy, it is India, not only as the world’s largest democracy, but also as the world’s most diverse nation. There is not a single Indian state that is comparable to the next, much less those that are thousands of kilometres apart. Nobody, with all the super computers in the world, could possibly rig an Indian election. No other place can conduct an election where almost 875 million people participate. India’s elections are not a miracle, but a rock-solid example of the nation’s engagement with democracy and its values.
An election can be a rough competition—rivals can become irreconcilable enemies—but the voter has to be spared this confrontation. This is not going to be the case of the US presidential election. The tone and message of the Republican nominee has become the lightning that could well ignite a democratic wildfire. What kind of scars are these wounds going to leave behind? The first lesson any politician has to learn is that there is nothing more important than the greater good, the protection and defence of the liberties and rights of the citizens and the nation’s inalienable interests. This is not the case of 21st century politics, and definitely not of the 2016 US elections and specifically of the Republican nominee.
We are going to face some of the most challenging times of recent history, and we need real politicians with values, principles and a solid commitment to the defence of their nation, their people’s liberties and world stability. This may sound utopic, but it’s the only way that today’s world can defeat terrorism, violence, instability and oppression. Too many of the citizens of democratic nations think that what they have is a given. This is the shortest path to disaster. Democratic leaders can have and do have many human flaws; the only one that is unacceptable is that they surrender to the horrors of tyranny.
firstname.lastname@example.org gustavo de aristegui Former Spanish ambassador to India