The West Has Given Authoritarianism Democratic Backing

And this is why legitimising dictatorships is dangerous.

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Image by Shealah Craighead/Public Domain

It’s weird at first — and downright scary second.

I’m talking about the way dictatorships have evolved in the West. You see, in my country, you didn't really have a say in who governed. Elections were rigged to high heavens and many simply accepted being ruled by the powerful as their fate. It was the same in other parts of the Third World too. The West, however, the last time they didn't get a say was centuries ago.

That time is beginning to come back. It’s now being governed by dictators again — the only difference is it’s choosing them.

Both America and Britain are prime examples. They’ve democratically decided that their democracies should be sentenced to death. What makes this even more unfathomable is the fact that this is the twenty-first century. Our democracies today are the culmination of centuries of struggle to rid our countries of authoritarians. But all America and Britain are doing is taking them back to the Middle Ages.

And in the process, they’re making the dictatorships they’re creating more dangerous, in a certain way, than the dictatorships of old could have ever hoped to be. How? Because they’re giving them legitimacy. You see, when a politician wins an election, they get a public mandate to govern as they see fit. But what about when that agenda is based on dictatorial control? Where does that lead to? You see, when a country’s ruled by a “traditional” dictator, there’s still democracy to turn to. It gives people hope. But what have America and Britain got to turn to now that their democracies that have become dictatorial?

What you’re looking at is democracy’s erosion — sanctioned by democracy.

And, naturally, this poses larger questions: is democracy going to be able to survive this? Will it, as we’ve known it to be, last for much longer?

I doubt it.

Sure, “democracy” will still be around. But, if the West keeps going down the path it’s set out on, it’ll just be a name that gives people some comfort in times where they know that they’re losing control over how their countries are run.

I’m referring to that feeling of helplessness that both Americans and Britons have known all too well this year. When Trump tried to snap democracy in half and they couldn’t do anything to stop it. When Johnson kept plunging Britain further and further into isolation, even though the majority of the British people now oppose Brexit, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. That, and this is coming from someone who’s lived under 3, is what living under a dictatorship is like; what they say goes and you — you must obey.

And why does this happen in the first place? What allows men like them to go rogue?

Legitimacy. Trump beat “the establishment” in 2016 and Johnson won an 80 seat majority. You see, whilst their actions are authoritarian to me and you, they aren’t to millions — the millions who put them in power. To them, this is democracy working as it was intended to. And that’s what makes the dictatorships of today that much more dangerous. It’s sanctioned, it’s legitimate, it’s got public backing.

Let me put this another way. What’s the image that first comes to your head when you hear the word “dictator?” Is it an unelected tyrant that lives in a castle? A fortress? You know why that was the case? Because they were afraid of their own people. Yes, they did as they pleased but they were also fearful for their lives. History has shown it doesn’t end well for people like them.

But the tyrants of today? They stand on stage, they don’t miss a chance to come on television and remind you of how great they are, and they go from town to town asking for your vote. See the difference? They’re not afraid. Why? Because what they’re doing has already been stamped with the public’s approval.

And that means what? The traditional limits that may have applied to dictators don’t apply to them anymore. Because when “the boss” has given you the green light, what’s there to worry about? What this leads to is authoritarianism infecting a political arena. Again, America’s a case in point. Look at the GOP. It’s now being called an “authoritarian party.” And that’s the truth. Only 27 Congressional Republicans were willing to acknowledge Biden won. The party has, largely, stood by the guy who tried to steal an election in broad daylight.

And why did the GOP decide to go down this route? Because Trump was their ticket to office. They could not afford to alienate the voters that were loyal to him. You see, they were backing an authoritarian to be able to be democratically elected to office. Why? Because that authoritarianism was what got democratic backing in the first place.

Are you beginning to see why this is so dangerous?

It’s a vicious cycle that’s only going to keep getting worse. With every elected dictator is going to come a new wave of infection. More and more politicians will begin to realise that discarding the will of the majority is what gets you votes. And then what happens? More infection. Authoritarianism is like a plague and the public has been ever-willing to help facilitate the spread.

And this can have disastrous consequences. Why? Because we’ve seen this before. Remember when fascism took Europe by storm? Where did it lead the countries it was infecting?

If America and Britain are going to stop that from happening, they first need to stop their democracies from being subject to the tyranny of the minority. Because what’s happening isn’t majority rule, it’s that of a tiny subset of the electorate. Boris Johnson only got 43.6% of the popular vote. Trump, in 2016, was nearly three million votes shy of Hillary Clinton.

So why did both elections go the way they did?

Because the majority didn’t care enough to show up at the polling booths. I’ll show you what I mean. In 2016, almost half of America’s eligible voters didn’t vote. And almost a third of Britain’s didn’t in 2019. And before you say it, yes, both the Electoral College and First Past the Post are in desperate need of reform. But that doesn’t render popular vote irrelevant. Both those elections could have been very different had the majority turned up to vote. And Biden’s win this year is the best example of what happens once more people realise voting is a duty and not simply a right.

But will they going forward? Will they care? Will they realise that simply believing that “all politicians are evil” and not voting isn’t the answer? You see, not voting is the reason those politicians managed to sneak in in the first place. The one thing the majority needs to understand is that the minority, backing people like Trump and Johnson, will now come out to vote. They realise they have the numbers to win. They realise that, because they now have the power to put people in office, more and more politicians are going to pander to what they want. This is where everyone else needs to understand that the days of voting “for” people are gone — and that they’ve been replaced by times where you must now vote “against.”

And, sure, whilst the fact that this is exactly what millions of Americans did this election is reassuring, the question is will they do it again? If so, will they do it the time after that?

You see, democracies are vulnerable to crumbling. Look East and you’ll probably see a few failing today. And that means that they need constant maintenance. They need you to show up every single time.

Because what’s the alternative? Surrender? Everything you’re seeing today multiplied by ten? Make no mistake — that too is democratically sanctioning the death of democracy.

It really is up to the electorate to stand up and say, “enough.” Otherwise, they risk their politics being infected by authoritarianism to the point where even saying “enough” will no longer be enough.

Sikander Hayat Khan

Written by

Political opinion from a Law & Politics grad. Top Writer in Government & Politics. Twitter @SikanderH8

The Purple Giraffe

The Purple Giraffe reports on what is happening today; with a dynamic insight into politics, policy, leadership, culture, social issues, and the economy.

Sikander Hayat Khan

Written by

Political opinion from a Law & Politics grad. Top Writer in Government & Politics. Twitter @SikanderH8

The Purple Giraffe

The Purple Giraffe reports on what is happening today; with a dynamic insight into politics, policy, leadership, culture, social issues, and the economy.

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