Democracy is partial, recent and fragile. We take it for granted but we should not.
Partial. The people of China, Russia, Iran and several Central Asian, Latin American, African and Middle Eastern countries do not live under a meaningful democracy.
Recent. In the United Kingdom, you could easily argue that a proper democracy has only been in place since the great Reform Act of 1832 or maybe the Representation of the People Act 1928 when women got the vote on the same basis as men. Jan and I have been watching the excellent Sky TV series: The British. It is naive to think that we live in a stable, mature democracy. Every century has brought its own turbulence.
Fragile. We have seen how recently the so-called bastion of democratic freedoms, the mighty USA, has come close to allowing mob rule to overturn a democratic election result. What if the dreadful Donald Trump had signed up some leaders of the US Armed Forces to support his absurd claims of vote-rigging. What then?
As Churchill famously said, democracy is the worst system of government in the world, apart from all the others. The component parts of a democracy are free and fair elections, an independent judiciary and a free press/media, all underpinned by the rule of law and seasoned by freedom of Speech. But this delicate balance must be held together by institutions in which the majority place a level of trust.
It is unrealistic to expect everybody to sign up to this complex framework. It has been dispiriting over the years to knock on many doors where people want no part of the democratic process. These are often the same people who engage in conspiracy theories: Covid is not real, man never landed on the moon, Elvis is still alive. We will never get everyone on board this democratic battleship; a healthy majority is the best we can hope for.
Each generation brings its own threats to our democratic stability. Perhaps ours is Fake News - driven by social media and (very possibly) deliberate Russian and/or Chinese action. Fake News is starting to corrode the edges of the essential framework of trust. It has long been a strategic aim of enemies of the West to destabilise our systems of government. Now, they have a new weapon with which to do so.
What is the answer? Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Let’s not get too cynical about our democratic institutions. Most people are there to make the country a better place and are doing their best.