A few years ago, I was at an Afro-Cities Conference in the Moroccan Capital, Rabat. As with most conferences there was a big exhibition with all sorts of organisations, businesses and Countries selling their wares. One of the stands was taken by a group called Republicans Abroad. As I looked at their literature it became clear that they were a sort of charitable wing of the Republican Party of the USA. When I asked them what they did they told me that their aim was to help develop democracies in ‘the third world!’
Never being to too concerned with diplomacy I asked them a simple question, “wouldn’t it be better if you started in Florida?” I’m afraid they didn’t understand the question. Like so many they thought that their system was so good they didn’t need to challenge it. They just couldn’t understand that the ‘hanging chads’ in Florida had weakened the view that the world had of the robustness of American democracy.
I have thought repeatedly about that incident in the past few days. Hanging chads are as nothing to the onslaught on due democratic processes launched by Donald Trump in the past few months which have been heightened since he so clearly lost the American Presidential Election.
Of course, this is likely to create problems in the USA. There are those who cannot conceive that Trump the Messiah could possibly lose an election. Nowhere have I seen a sight more pitiful than the people launching prayers at the Pennsylvania counting offices to try and get God to deliver the election to Trump. God clearly and wisely decided not to intercede.
As I have watched the situation reasonably dispassionately it is quite clear that the election has been very efficiently organised by trained, thoughtful and caring government officials at state and county level. Like their counterparts in the UK they take pride in their professional impartiality. I have no idea how our counting staff and election workers vote and I am entirely unconcerned by it. What I do know that the election process itself is scrupulously impartial and the votes are added up correctly within miniscule proportions of error.
The American process has been absolutely transparent with observers able to watch the votes being counted. National impartial bodies responsible for the vote have declared them to be fair and free. Trained election observers from other Countries have declared them to be fair and free. The national organisation for election managers has declared them to be fair and free. Most county, and state politicians of both Parties have declared them to be fair and free.
The only major figure who has challenged this is Trump who is supported by a number of Republicans who dare not oppose him although more are doing so on a daily basis. This is above all America’s problem and I strongly hope that justice will prevail and that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have their victory endorsed through the labyrinthine processes of the US constitution. “All’s well that ends well”, you might say. But you would be wrong!
What happens in America casts a heavy shadow all over the World. Look at what’s happening in Hong Kong where the Chinese authorities are effectively saying why bother with democracy when you can see the chaos in the USA. Here democratically elected legislators have been thrown out of the Legislative Assembly because they chose to change the autocratic rule of the Chinese Communist Party.
Democracy takes time to instil and needs to have a number of checks and balances to make it work. It needs to have politicians prepared to state their case to the people but go when their time is up. It needs laws which are fair about the conduct of elections. It needs courts who will neutrally enforce those laws. It needs a free press to truthfully report what is happening both pre and post-election. Above all it needs a population who both believe in democracy and have faith that their collective will shall prevail.
Many corrupt politicians will now look at the American fiascos and feel empowered by it. “If Trump can challenge and vilify the election and its result in his Country why should I not do the same” they will rightly conclude and ask. There have been many cases recently where changes in power have been bitterly contested. I think particularly of the Gambia some three years ago where the President refused to move until World opinion including thoughts and actions from the UK and USA forced him to reconsider. There are at least four more states in Africa where democracy is hanging by a thread and three in S America.
The ability of the USA to intervene in corrupt democracies, especially in South America which they think of as their back yard, is extremely reduced. The USA has continued to intervene in Brazil, Ecuador and other South American countries. Ostensibly they do it to protect democracy although I suspect it is more about their own security. The number of people who will listen to them in future will be hugely reduced.
American influence in global affairs has been on the slide for the past two decades although the Obama period steadied the decline. Trump has hastened its demise as THE world power. People have looked with horror at the sexism, racism and protectionism of this MAGA politician. I want America to be a great power which could lead the ‘West’. It is, however, its own actions from illegal calls about an army of immigrants to a wall building President and now a challenge to its own democratic processes, that are dragging it down quickly.
I don’t think out system is perfect in the UK by any means. For most elections we have a poor system which magnifies small leads and creates governments at all levels which does not represent the voting intention of the people. Our own national government has an 80 seat majority on 42% of the vote.
However, after all my 53 years I can definitely say that votes in the UK are distributed fairly, looked after fairly and counted fairly. The idea that elections should end up with court challenge after court challenge is just amazing and unheard of here with very few exceptions over the centuries.
To change the words of Shakespeare and convert them to apply to Trump, “the evil that Trump does will live after his Presidency, the good will be fast forgotten in the USA and the World”.