Having sleepless nights over Trump’s victory? Sleeping badly ever since the Brexit fiasco? Your faith in democracy shaken, you are beginning to see demonocracy everywhere? Relax, stop worrying, you’re just suffering from a mild form of (political) anxiety neurosis. In your imagination, the Greek demos – for ‘common people’ – has coupled itself with the Latin Hydra – that’s the hydra-headed monster – to lay an egg on which is written either ‘Donald’ or ‘Hillary’, depending on your confession. ‘Hillary’ failed to hatch, but ‘Donald’ has squirmed his way into the White House while America’s first black President is still in it. For shame.
America is divided, the United States are no longer united – they’re shooting anyone who dares to make that stupidest of all puns from California to New York and from Maine to Mexico, I hear. Otherwise I’d say that for the first time, America is as united as the United Nations, which it hosts. Which brings me to an idea! What Britain’s and America’s democracy needs is a kind of veto – naturally for the educated, liberal, progressive classes. In which case, anytime the folk is stupid enough to vote for Trump, say, we just trump it with our veto, looking as inscrutable or as bland as the Russian or the Chinese representative on the Security Council.
But there’s a problem. All the other groups such as the non-college whites, the blacks from Bernie Sanders enthusiasts to gangsta rappers, Latinos legal or illegal, won’t they be calling for their own veto powers as well? In which case, won’t they be shooting down all our president-elects? Will it not end the way they choose the Secretary-General of the United Nations or the heads of the IMF and the World Bank and so on? Everybody a compromise candidate and no winners or losers and no competition, in effect? But isn’t that exactly what we’re doing, what we’ve always done? Isn’t that the quintessence of democracy, choosing the lesser evil – at times even the least evil! – and hoping for the best?
Funny that everybody’s looking at the White House and sparing hardly a glance for the House of Representatives or the Senate – because that’s where they all sit, the power dealers and the power brokers, though Trump spat in their soup too, as the Germans would have put it. It stinks, as the Germans would say, the whole political structure, and not just in America. I remember asking my father as an adolescent – I was the adolescent, not my father! – why it was so difficult to find five hundred honest and upright men – feminism was still a far cry in India – I was asking my father, why can’t we find five hundred honest men to sit in the parliament and choose the government and pass the legislation and so on. Aren’t there five hundred honest men in India? I asked like a teenage Seneca. ‘Yes,’ father said, ‘but how are you going to get them into the parliament?’ Ah, democracy and elections and what-have-you would get in the way, would they? I saw my father’s logic. Not that it helped.
With almost medieval simplicity, German anchors have been asking their American talk show guests: ‘Trump or Clinton, isn’t that like choosing between the plague and the cholera?’ Perhaps that is what is wrong with democracy, that one has a choice at all. Look at the Germans: they have no other choice than Merkel at the next elections and everyone is happy. Now Merkel will be getting her sixteen years in office like her mentor Helmut Kohl – that’s long enough for two American presidents with extension. But the Americans like having their political Super Bowl every four years, I suspect, whereas the Germans do not. With typical European pragmatism and equanimity, they hold on to a good thing when they’ve found one, never change a winning team and all that. That’s why the Germans have already cast their vote – mentally – more-or-less, and gone about their business, the Kanzlerfrage, the chancellor question, having been solved, so far as they are concerned. The political parties – and they have more than two in Germany, friends in America please note – well, the political parties always have their own ball – to the exclusion of the general public, except by way of popularity polls – when it comes to choosing the Federal President, they’ve just chosen a new one btw, again by common consent, while America was having its presidential High Noon. Which brings me to my second idea! German media and polling institutes have been regularly asking the Germans whom they’d choose as the next US president: 94% of the Germans were for Clinton and 4% for Trump, I think. All of which goes to show that the Americans should leave the choosing of their President in German hands – whereas the Americans could choose the German President, say, in return. What I’m suggesting is a kind of outsourcing of elections and suchlike democratic processes to countries which are less involved and therefore less hysterical. In exchange, the outsourcing country gets to choose the incumbents for less crucial posts in the country of the second instance. This way, both countries – and both folks – can have just as much fun & games with none of the hangover if things go wrong.
Just as Robbie Williams is more popular in Germany than in the UK, Barack Obama is naturally more popular in Germany than in the US, I suspect. And Obama is now passing into History real Hollywood style, strolling around the Parthenon and lecturing the Greeks about democracy at President Pavlopoulos’ dinner – the Greeks, of all people, who invented demokratia by putting together demos (common people) and kratos (rule, strength), as the Wikipedia would have told Obama. He should have remembered that an American president cannot ride into history as into the sunset here in good old Europe, which always devises a system and a way of cheating it, both at the same time. In Europe and its eastern extension, every revolution eats its own children, in the end. Obama should have looked around him from the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin and realised that the European masters of manipulation have been chipping away at democracy too: Hungary has Orban, Poland has Kaczynski, Spain has Rajoy all over again and Britain even has a Trump look-alike as the Foreign Secretary.
The original Greek word daimon did not have any negative connotations; it meant a spirit or a divine power similar to the Latin genius. In Christian demonology, the demon became a fallen angel and an unclean spirit. They used to exorcise the demon and burn the witch, in medieval times. Somewhat like the latest American elections or at least the reaction to them, don’t you think?