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Democracy Isn’t Working

Democracy Isn’t Working

Everybody is now beginning to focus on 2020 but I’m still thinking about 2008. When President Obama was elected, he was elected on the hope and change ticket. Optimism was everywhere that finally we had a president who was different and would advance a progressive agenda that would change the face of the United States. After 8 years in power his achievements can be described as having been modest at best. This week the former president was talking the language of compromise, seemingly to explain the relative failure of his mandate. “You have to recognize that the way we’ve structured democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you, and that by definition means you’re not going to get 100% of what you want”. While this kind of incrementalism may sound statesmanlike it doesn’t provide answers to the urgent questions facing the world.

Yet ironically those 8 years of much hope and little change nonetheless so upset the regressive right that they elected a racist reality TV star to replace him. Trump has set about destroying Obama´s meager legacy whether by rolling back environmental regulations or getting rid of Obamacare. For career politicians like Obama this it seems is all just par for the course; it’s just the way things work. He has moved on to the lucrative speaking circuit which makes ex-presidents into multi-millionaires and from his cozy mansion he now tells those in need of hope and change that as the Rolling Stones would say “you can’t always get what you want”.

Perhaps the rest of us could afford to be as blasé were it not for the grave state of the world. We stand on the brink of environmental collapse and we have a president who boasts about turning the United States into the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas. As Greta Thunberg has so powerfully stated “the climate is not going to collapse because some party got the most votes. The politics that’s needed to prevent the climate catastrophe—it doesn’t exist today. We need to change the system, as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on.” So as the party machines gear up for the 2020 campaign it seems that our political system is not fit for purpose. If the worst happens we will have 4 more years of climate change denial in the white house, but should even the most apparently radical democrat win the election will the system allow them to make the truly radical decisions required to turn things around.

In times of war democratic norms have often had to be suspended and a more authoritarian regime tolerated. As Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has said, this is our World War Two and radical change, which our corrupt system is incapable of providing, is required. I believe that an enlightened dictatorship led by people who get it, like AOC and Greta, is the only way to make the course correction we need. If and when the emergency passes there may once again be a place for democracy but if democracy gives you a dictator like Trump it might be time to move on from democracy.

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