On the Edge Part 03: How Democracy Is Undermined in the West
We live in a time of populist revolts which, among other things, are the result (or cause) of political instability. There have been ‘shock election results’ in 2015, the unexpected vote for BREXIT in Britain, the rise of Donald Trump in the US and of right-wing parties in Europe.
It is our conviction that the erosion of democracy in the western world is part of the reason for these political shakings. In the previous article, we look at the ingredients of a truly democratic society (which includes but goes much further than elections). Again, they are
1. Regular elections, free and fair;
2. Rule of Law;
3. Universally recognised human rights;
4. Independent, constitutionally-based judiciary;
5. Free and responsible press;
6. Separation of powers;
7. Balance of power;
8. Separation yet equal respect of church and state;
9. Basic moral foundations.
Yet, these important pillars are being attacked across the world. This is especially true of ‘free speech,’ which is being assaulted by political correctness and hate-speech laws. When free speech goes, democracy goes with it.
Here are some examples of the erosion of democracy:
Remember the Russian Revolution of February 1917? It was a genuine revolution with democratic aspirations. However, the revolution was hijacked in October 1917 by the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin. He allowed a planned referendum to go ahead a few days later. To his shock horror, the referendum result was exactly the opposite of what he wanted. Lenin was not about to allow the Russian electorate to subvert his plans for a communist paradise. So he cancelled the results and thus began the Marxist totalitarian regime we came to know as the Soviet Union.
Though the European Union (EU) espouses democracy and makes it a requirement for membership, remember that EU laws - which are binding on all member nations - are not made by an elected parliament. They are crafted by the 28 member unelected European Commission. The EU Parliament either amends, edits, or rejects the laws. When EU member states have EU-related referendums which fail - no worries - they get them to vote again or repackage the legislation to help it pass. Combine this with heavy EU regulations and a vast bureaucracy, you have the choking, not flourishing, of democracy.
Even the birthplace of modern democracy, the United States, has been witnessing the deterioration of democracy right under its nose. Modern presidents, probably since the 1930s, have been using a procedure called ‘Executive Order,’ where they ‘order’ a course of action without the approval of Congress. These orders are not mandated or allowed in the US Constitution.
The modern US Supreme Court has been notorious for going beyond its mandate to interpret law in light of the American Constitution. Instead, progressivist judges have become de facto legislators. They did it in 1973 with the Roe versus Wade ruling, which made abortion legal in all 50 US states. While pro-abortion (euphemistically called ‘pro-choice’) advocates say Roe versus Wade gave women a ‘constitutional right’ to an abortion, how can this be when nothing - absolutely nothing - in the US Constitution even hints at abortion rights? America was trying to resolve the abortion issue, democratically, state-by-state. Yet, the Supreme Court came and short-circuited the whole process. Thirty-one states were immediately left without abortion laws. Far from resolving the issue, Roe v. Wade became one of the great battle cries of the continuing ‘cultural civil war’ and the most contentious social issue since the abolition of slavery.
Again in 2015, with Obergefell vs. Hodges, the US Supreme Court ruled that all 50 states must allow same-sex marriage. The American states were trying to work out the issue democratically, and the court came in and overruled them. As US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said of this court decision, ‘The Constitution had nothing to do with it.’ Democracy was overruled yet again.
Whenever an issue is fundamental to society, the most democratic thing to do is have a civil, informed debate and then let the electorate decide. That especially true with the definition of marriage, a bedrock of society. In September 2016, the Australian federal government proposed a marriage plebiscite for 2017 to let the people decide on whether to marriage should be defined as an exclusive union between a ‘man and woman,’ or between ‘two persons.’ The leftist political parties are against it! To say that the Australian electorate is incapable of making an intelligent and fair-minded decision on this vital is an anti-democratic attitude. You may want to read Dennis Prager’s article Why the Left Hates Referendums (
When the press or courts or parliament or executive branch or the military or some or all of the above go beyond their constitutional mandate, then democracy is undermined. When that happens, political stability begins to suffer, too.
If we can return to true democracy, Biblical morality, a commitment to absolute truth, and a spiritual revival, stability is assured. After all, we will learn what Jesus means when He says those who obey His word are wise people who build their lives on the rock, not the sinking sand (Matthew 7:24-27).