Challenge met

At long last the elections are over! Congratulations are due not only the new Democrats, but also all voters of the U.S. for demonstrating once again to the world one of the cardinal virtues of democracy. This virtue is the capacity of the democratic system to facilitate a rational, non-violent process by which rulers, whose attempted solutions to a society’s problems no longer appear to be the most promising, are replaced. For the emerging democracies around the world, military interventions render such smooth transitions, this being the exception rather than the rule. This demonstration represents a powerful argument in favor of democracy as not only a “government by the people” but also as the most rational form of government.

The number of minorities including women, blacks, and hispanics, etc., elected to various political offices this year is also significant. For it shows that democracy can truly be a government of the people, when it draws representation from people with diverse social and multi-cultural backgrounds. This anti-discrimination virtue of democracy should also be taken seriously by emerging democracies within pluralistic societies if they are to avoid racial, ethnic or religious conflicts and the risk of further military interruptions or regress into civil wars, totalitarianism, or anarchy as we find in former Yugoslavia and Somalia, etc.

The true challenge of democracy in the U.S. now is the actualization of the third ideal—”government for the people.” On this claim it is an imperative that rulers act effectively in the interests of the people. Thus a government cannot claim to be genuinely democratic if millions of its citizens, who voted it into power (and in some cases risked their lives in defense of the state’s interests), are poorly paid, jobless, homeless and without proper nutrition or health care, etc. Meanwhile some live in $25 million dollar homes and wear $150,000 watches. Thus it is only when the new Democrats transform their visions and promises into policies and realities that significantly bridge the widening socioeconomic gap between the rich and the poor of this country, would they be running a true democracy.

It is the inability or the unwillingness of the Reagan-Bush type of laissez-faire democratic capitalism governments to deal with these problems of exploitation and marginalization (that made the socialist alternative attractive to most non-western countries). If they can effect this change they would simultaneously be proving to the emerging democracies that the process of “piecemeal social engineering,” as Karl Popper calls it, is more rational and effective than the utopian and vile revolutionary transformations promised by the socialist or totalitarian alternatives to democracy.

Joseph Osei

Philosophy department