The slow decline of Democracy


Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash

Cy Burchenal

Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash
Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash

As of September 16, Edgar Matobato, an alleged death squad member, levelled allegations against Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte including, but not limited to, murder. This is a mere sliver of the ongoing scandal happening in the Philippines. The South Pacific nation was placed in the unfortunate position of having to choose between a presidential candidate with little experience and a firebrand candidate promising swift and violent action against the nation’s drug problems, Duterte. The merits of the candidates remains irrelevant to their public personas. Several were typical, although unpopular, politicians in the vain of a typical political crop. Duterte campaigned as the aggressive alternative to a system he characterized as failing. When the Philippines was asked to choose between a safe conventional candidate and a radical, they chose the radical. As an isolated incident, what is happening in the Philippines could be called a failure of democracy and nothing more, but it doesn’t appear to be completely isolated.

The world is in the midst of a crisis of liberalism. At every meridian, liberal institutions, be they old or young, seem to be experiencing radical change. Liberal Institution refers to organizations built upon liberal ideals such as democracy and globalism. Among the most visibly affected countries are the United States and England. At times of global political stress, it is these two nations that often lobby the hardest for faith in international institutions such as NATO and the EU. However, in recent months it seems that it is these two nations that are globalism’s harshest critics.

The United States is not unfamiliar to a demagogue. During the Great Depression, Louisiana politician Huey Long, sought the presidency on the promise of radical change in favor of the working man. In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy wreaked havoc in American politics with his anti-communist witch hunts. While these types of politicians are familiar, never in U.S. history has a candidate so atypical of its own political system emerged as Donald Trump. Far more strange is the man’s peculiar relationship with Vladimir Putin and his opposition to NATO. NATO is perhaps America’s best loved international body, and to see an American conservative decry it, indicates something far stranger: a reversal of a U.S. policy that has remained stagnant since the start of the Cold War.

This leads into the second point: the exit of Britain from the European Union, or Brexit as it is commonly known. Brexit was somehow highly visible yet completely unexpected. Not only has the second-largest economy in Europe abandoned the EU, but also the reasoning and motivation of the men who led the exodus convolutes any fact-based thinking. The leaders of the exit movement, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, promised that by leaving the European Union the United Kingdom would save billions of pounds each year. Beyond mere financial gains Farage and Johnson placed strong emphasis on the concept of British independence, implying that the sovereignty of the UK was under assault by foreign interests. The financial promises of saving were proven wrong, to the extent that Brexit has cost the U.K. more than the EU ever did, but the anti-globalist reasoning stays fast. The true reasoning for the movement was to prevent Syrian Refugees from seeking asylum in Britain, yet another liberal European tenant ostracized by Brexit.

No global issue is completely apart from an individual’s influence. The first part of a solution is awareness. From democracy to globalism to rule of law, something is happening to liberal institutions. Everyday life can be navigated without an open eye or attention to detail, casting a ballot, however, cannot.