Monday, June 06, 2005

There's been some chatter, both on the right and on the left, that terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbollah being elected in Palestine and Lebanon indicates maybe democracy isn't the way to go in some places. Similar arguments have been raised regarding elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where it’s postulated elections might merely serve to replace stable, trustworthy dictatorships with democratically elected religious fundamentalists.

To these democracy-doubters I say: Have faith.

Democratization is a process, as Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out. The great saving grace of democracy is accountability for results, or as Lincoln put it, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” Hamas and Hizbollah have indeed had some election success. Now they have to prove they can govern. When they're asked to actually improve people's lives instead of just killing people and handing out food, and are held accountable for results by voters, we'll see what happens. If they fail, hungry new politicians will take their place (and with popular support leaving the terrorist groups for a democratic alternative, they may be so enervated that they wither and die). If they succeed, it will pull them toward legitimacy and sap the will of the people for condoning violence. Either way, we’ll all come out ahead. Similarly, religious zealots in other Arab countries will have to prove they can govern if elected. As long as the democratic process itself is respected (as it is not in Iran), democracy will likely solve its own problems in time.


Blogger Paul said...


Thanks for saying something (and saying it well) that I have been thinking for a couple of years now. When I hear people argue, "What if they elect the Taliban/Osama/Some Islamo-Fascist?" I respond with a 'so what,' I'd like to see those guys get re-elected on promises of continued whippings whippings by electric cables, and bans on music, dancing, women, art, culture, etc. I'd imagine, especially in some of the ravaged economies of the Middle East, that a politician who campaigns on a more pedestrian platform such as employment, health care, building infrastructure, etc would sound better than calls to slaughter the infidels by sacrificing your own children.

The desire for free choice and just plain old fun - call it the democracy, whisky, sexy gene - is too prevalent. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for a new democracy is when the first elected party loses. Will they leave office peacefully (i.e. respect democracy)? If the political landscape has changed to a point where democracy appears here (well, there actually) to stay, I bet they would leave office and rethink their political strategy, rather than try to car bomb their way back in.

12:38 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Thanks, good points.

It's easy to forget crazy people got elected in the U.S. too -- and still do sometimes. It's all part of the trial and error of democracy.

2:50 PM  

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