Using Democracy for Its Own Destruction
By Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez (Latinoamerica21)
HAVANA TIMES – It could be in Colombia or Spain, in the United States or Russia. The new script to seize political power and destroy democracy and its institutions is evident, predictable and effective. This is the most viable Machiavellian operation in this world where military coups, invasion wars, violent revolutions and perpetuation in power are increasingly repudiated by the citizens and universal conscience.
British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, pronounced a famous sentence that serves to legitimize democracy as the best of political systems. With his English humor, he left open a door to the weaknesses of this system: “democracy is the worst form of government designed by man – except for all the others that have been tried.”
Indeed, no one, or almost no one, would openly defend contemporary tyrannies, dictatorships of a new type, or authoritarianism without a mask. However, these systems are continually trying to re-emerge because clinging to absolute power, whether totalitarian or populist, is one of the most deeply rooted temptations among human ambitions. Churchill was referring to such regimes.
Then, as these authoritarian regimes are more and more repelled by conscious and educated citizens, the cleverest ones have invented a fraudulent formula to disguise their purposes under the manipulation of the rules of the democratic game: They use democracy to destroy it.
The recognizable script
Today’s populist, dictatorial, and even tyrannical regimes do not begin their journey with a violent blow. They are introduced into the democratic system’s dynamics and institutions with an apocalyptic demagogic discourse.
These are some of the steps of the predictable script. First, they manipulate the poor, the most vulnerable, presenting themselves as messiahs, and saviors. They take advantage of frequent corruption cases to sow the narrative that all political parties are corrupt, all politicians are opportunists and dishonest, and everything before them has been a failure.
Moreover, these groups are armed with a well-spun program where they appear as the only alternative to purify and reinvent the democratic system that has been corrupted. There are no alternatives that cannot be reformed or renewed if not with the messiah and his party of national salvation. For this purpose, these regimes establish absolute control of the media and the educational and cultural system.
Populism exacerbates nationalism, jingoism and class struggle to destroy anyone who opposes the “good of the people”. The masses, depersonalized and inflamed by the illusion that “now we are going to fix everything”, vote convinced that the one “good to be known” is much better than the bad one “already known”.
Ultimately, the solution for the voter seems to be to choose in the democratic elections the “enlightened one”, the “strong man”, the one who seems to have the keys to the earthly paradise. With him, to enthrone the only “movement” to the nascent party or guerrilla recycled into a “non-traditional” political group, because the script says that everything traditional is old, corrupt, and finished.
As “no one is frightened by foreign totalitarianism, authoritarianism or populism”, the ballot boxes become vindictive trenches, barricades against all that is established. One does not vote for the one who deserves more, has more training to serve, or has accumulated more experience. Neither do you vote for the one who has demonstrated the greatest integrity or for the candidate with the most coherent and realistic program.
The vote is for the illusionist utopia, not for those minor utopias that push us forward knowing that every time we think we have conquered them, they will recede like the horizon. The vote is for the “paradise” of the poor even if whoever is raising it has an unpresentable authoritarian and violent history.
When these characters are elected by democratic methods legitimized by a Constitution in free, plural, competitive elections monitored by civil society and international auditors, they begin to erode democracy from within.
The first step is to “penetrate” the three branches of the rule of law by placing in them people “faithful” to the cause of “cleaning” the institutions. They will not be the best public servants, nor the least corrupt, but the “unconditional” ones who are obedient to the “chosen one”. From the inside, they open cracks, turn normal conflicts into irreconcilable conflicts and attack the “old traditional institutions” in order to change them.
Once the leader and his followers have taken over the democratic institutions and have eaten away them from the inside, almost imperceptibly, they strike the redemptive blow so that the new structures support a Constitution reform. At the same time, they are working at the grassroots level so that the legitimate demands become destructive violence of civil society, dividing the compatriots.
Finally, a new Constitution is called for and structures are created that will perpetuate in power the leader, who uses democracy to destroy it. It is enough to be attentive to the political evolution of certain countries to verify that this script, designed to destroy democracy using democratic mechanisms, is repeated with slight nuances. Essentially, the people, for lack of civic and political education, allow themselves to be dragged along by these siren songs, again and again.
This has happened in countries with a totalitarian past, where after a democratic period they returned to another variant of authoritarianism. Cuba has experienced right-wing and left-wing dictatorships, populism and this totalitarianism. Let’s hope we will learn from these lessons of history so that in the future we do not run into the same stone again… or similar ones. Never again.
*Translated from Spanish by Micaela Machado Rodrigues
One thought on “Using Democracy for Its Own Destruction”
An interesting and stimulating article. Those who are privileged to live in multi-party democracies ought to recognize their good fortune and also realize that democracy is a delicate balance, where success and continuation, depend upon tolerance and moderation. The most significant difference in politics is not between “left” and “right”, but between democracy and totalitarianism. It is fashionable to consider communism as the extreme evil, but fascism has proven to be similar in practice. It is too easy to merely address how repression is applied under communism. Those of us who are older – not necessarily wiser – but undeniably with greater experience, recall Mussolini, Franco, Salazar and Pinochet and their use of power and control. Were they any better than the Castros? It can be argued that the behaviour of past US President Donald Trump, was strongly indicative of preference for dictatorship, with the accompanying perils. Yet, some 76 million Americans voted to retain him. Beware of false political prophets!