The Problem and Peacefulness of Democracy

I have two very good friends, one an ardent Democrat (D) and the other an ardent Republican (R). Last week I had conversations with both about the (then) upcoming elections. D told me that if Romney won he would pack up his things and move with his family to Canada or some other country where people were not so  ‘backward and stupid’ as to elect Mitt Romney. On the other hand, R told me, if Obama won, he would pack up his things and move with his family to New Zealand or Austria or some place where Western culture and Christian values were still mainstream forces.
I felt that neither of them had understood what democracy is all about: Democracy is not only the choice of the nation’s leaders by free and fair elections to periodically invest them with power for a predetermined number of years; it also requires that all citizens accept gracefully the results of an election. In the democratic set-up, a maximum of 49% of the voting populace are bound to be disappointed every time there is an election. This is the problem in democracy.
Leaving a country because of the outcome of an election is essentially repudiating the fundamental tenet of democracy. A nation is like a family with a long life with many ups and downs. Sometimes the family and its head may become weak or sick or even mentally disabled. When that happens the members of the family should try to do what is appropriate and effective to bring the family back to sanity and health, not leave the family and become part of another.
 The problem in democracy is the price we pay for the peaceful way in which power-transition occurs. Perhaps the most sublime moment in the life of a democratic nation is when the losing candidate for the highest office gracefully accepts the will of the people and wishes the winning opponent the very best. [I thought Romney did this extremely well last night.]
What my D friend failed to see was that the fact some fellow citizens feel strongly that their candidate would be a more effective leader does not make them “backward or stupid,’ nor even ‘evil’ as some believe him to be.  
What my R friend failed to see was that America (indeed the whole world) is experiencing a Gone-With-The-Wind phenomenon which may be described as one in which, to use Tennyson’s phrase, the old order changeth, yielding place to new. This process is never painless, but when it occurs in slow and peaceful ways as in democracies, there is far less bloodshed, if any, than when radical positive changes occur through revolutions.
In any event, as I see it, the re-election of Obama for another term bodes well for America for several reasons. To list just a few: Obama responds to the crying need for the actualization of some of America’s  highest ideals. He serves effectively as a voice for the less privileged citizens of the country. Through eloquence, diplomacy, and  enlightened perspectives in public utterances on national and global issues he has enhanced the prestige of America in the minds of many fair-minded  and thoughtful observers in the rest of the world.
I therefore wish Obama and the country the very best as he continues to lead the nation in the context of the many complex problems that America and the world at large are facing today.

November 7, 2012

Published by:

Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.

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