Can democracy be democratic?

Posted on November 10, 2016

It is not self-evident that democracy has to be democratic. Women and slaves were not entitled to the benefits of citizenship in a democratic society of ancient Greece. Immigrants and refugees are not always, not immediately and not everywhere recognized as fellow-citizens today. But even if we forget about the past inequalities and the present exclusions, the question about democracy stands. Open. Can democracy be democratic? I think that because Donald Trump managed to win elections in the United States on November 8th 2016 – yes, it can.

What is democracy, after all? Most of us accept a fable of the sovereign community of equal citizens, who exercise their right and vote for their representatives every four, five or six years.  In daily life we are all trained to be diligent consumers, not citizens. We are encouraged to buy, not to detect and analyze special interests, lobbies and pressure groups. But on very special occasions we can become better. We can rise above the status of docile consumers, we can train to become active, informed and concerned citizens. All registered citizens can actually decide – in regular intervals - if some politicians will, or will not occupy some positions in the formal bureaucracy of democratic states. It ain’t much, but it is a beginning.

What should be done in order to make democracy function? Well, democracy makes sense, if equality is taken seriously. Elites, oligarchies, aristocracies and other lobbies of the best and the brightest (firmly supported by the richest and the most powerful) do not really need equality. Equality is nice to have on the billboards, but not in decision-making managerial suites. If corporations can trump lobbyists in directly investing in politicians, if lobbyists can shape the programs of political parties no matter what the electoral promises were - citizens with no deep pockets and no network power will have little to say. This has to be remedied – now.

But how? Well, first of all, not all media can be allowed to lie all the time. The present mediated closure of the political mind by the likes of the Fox news (in the US) or Axel Springers (in the EU) has to be delegalized and subjected to debate. A re-set is needed. Democracy can survive, but we should all contribute to a higher percentage of democracy in our democracies.


(Nov.10, 2016)