Recent demonstrations around the globe are taking aim at a new target: democracy. From Israel to India to Spain to Wall Street, protests rooted in economic issues carry underlying anti-democratic elements as well. From the New York Times:
Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.
They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.
“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”
This anger is certainly justifiable — the past few years have shown democracy at its worst. Spineless and inept European politicians have spent the past three years bickering as their house collapses around them, while the American political system has been rendered impotent by petty partisan squabbling. Across the globe, Japan has continued its long streak of boring and uninspired leadership. Everywhere, economic problems seem to be spoiling futures of entire generations. This performance does not inspire confidence in the institution.
For all of its flaws, however, representative democracy remains a better form of governance than mob rule. The right of revolution, Americans generally believe, is an inalienable human right but can only justly be exercised in extremities where all else has failed. Working democracies do not meet that test; if you can vote the scoundrels out there is no need for and no justification for revolution and mob violence.
Democracy may not always be pretty, but its track record is much stronger than the sort of authoritarian populist movements that often arise from unfocused street protests. If voters are so fed up with their current leadership, they have a simple solution — vote them out. If none of the existing parties suit you, start your own and compete for votes.
Poor, misguided Marta Solanas thinks that hers is the first generation to make the startling discover that “voting is worthless.” Millions of Europeans have thought that in the past; this was the siren song of Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler. Bourgeois voting was a snare and a delusion; direct action by the people was the way to build a better world. Let’s hope Ms Solanas never finds out how wrong she is.