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Endangered Species: Democracy?

At DSOT, an underlying core philosophy to our project is that governments should represent the best interests of their people, and that the citizens of a country have not just the right to decide government action, but most often know better what their needs are. In other words, we believe public governments should be representative democracies, with full rights and protections for all people. When democracy grows stronger and more responsive, DSOT is winning.

In America, and globally, we are obviously far from achieving equitable representative democracy, in fact the chasm between true representation and the state of government corruption we have now was much of the driving impetus behind founding DSOT. Until recently, it seemed to many that while representative government had not been achieved, the world was marching inexorably towards full democratic governance. In this view, socially minded citizens, like those practicing DSOT, were merely the vanguard in the march towards representative government, with everyone pulling in the same direction, even if we moved at different speeds. Concerningly, a new report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) suggests this may longer be the case.

IDEA reports that as of 2020, countries veering towards authoritarianism outnumber those heading towards democratization over the last 5 years. The USA has, for the first time, been included in the list of backsliding democracies. In fact, when backsliding democracies are lumped in with “hybrid” and authoritarian regimes, nearly 70% of the world’s population is experiencing a profound lack of representation. While the pandemic certainly exacerbated the antidemocratic tendencies of governments, many of the issues that we’ve discussed over the last few years, from police brutality, to voter suppression, extortionary healthcare, draconian immigration policies, and contested elections have clearly been a part of this ongoing trend.

Reversing the decay of democracy is essential to creating a just and equitable world, that respects the dignity of all people. Without the consensus to run governments as democracies and the mechanisms to do so effectively we fall back into a world in which might/money makes right. Some might say that much of America already resembles such a perverse logic, but crucially the forms of democracy are still in place, and the people, at least nominally, still support the democratic process. This means that at least for now, the elites need to operate with the fig leaf of democratic representation. This is a far cry from the type of government that we are fighting for, but is much better than if we were starting from an overtly authoritarian regime.

As we’ve discussed, though, democracy is on the retreat, and if these trends keep up, before too long even the democratic forms will be abandoned. They nearly were this past election cycle. Democracies, however, often don’t fail in spectacular coups, but rather in the slow and repeated failure of government to respond to the will of the people, until belief in collective self-governance is abandoned as foolish idealism. The failure of governments to adequately respond to the pandemic is the latest and most obvious example of this dynamic, and presages even worse outcomes from the growing climate crisis without a change of course.

To combat this despair and apathy we need collective, pro-democracy action. Democracy is not just an abstract form of government; it is an activity practiced daily by people. We can take daily actions that strengthen democratic representation, or undermine it. When we work together, thinking about the needs of the many, not just the few, raising awareness and demanding accountability, we are building that democratic society. There are many forms that this pro-democracy work can take, from protests and strikes, to running for public office, to showing up at school board meetings. Of course, we need more than just social power, we need economic power, to change the tide of democratic retreat. So, make sure you join us each week as we grow that economic cudgel to beat back the rising tide of authoritarianism, and make sure that the 21st century is one in which the governments represent the will of all their people, not just the wealthy elites!

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