It seems like everyday now we’re hit by yet another disastrous outcome from the Trump administration whether in policy or in action/reaction. It then becomes easy for us, thanks to media coverage and its over-analysis & obsession with sensationalism, to focus on the detail while loosing site of the “Big Picture” which in my view is the state/future of democratic governance and the fragilities exposed by this new administration; I am using the United States here as a textbook case of such fragilities. This can certainly be a subject for a book or a very long post/article but I am a bit lazy so I’ll not go there. Instead I would suggest checking this post which provides, I claim, interesting thoughts on the subject; Democratic Governance – A Transition from the state of Devolution to Evolution. For this post I would like to highlight the 3 main areas that provide in my view the most vulnerability to our democratic form of governance;
- Corruption: Corruption I fear is the main thread that passes through all vulnerabilities that threaten both our form of governance as well as our security when it comes to foreign adversaries. It is the single most critical entry point into our society and our political/economic establishment that has been used by our adversaries in the past though not at the levels reached with the recent Russian government led incursions designed to destroy our democratic values/credentials in recent western elections. I am actually reading a very interesting analysis on the subject and hoping to share a review in a post once completed. Suffice it to say corruption is also viewed in this analysis as detrimental to democratic governance.
- Autocratic Tendencies: It is these tendencies of leaders like Trump coupled with the lack of transparency/oversight that make for a very lethal combination for any form of democratic governance. So when we see things like Executive Actions/Orders being shoved through the political system in the first few days in office and the administration actually bragging about them/labelling them “Achievements”; and Executive Privileges that are likely to be invoked to prevent former FBI Director James Comey from testifying at a Congressional committee; from all this we can clearly see that these forms of privileges can easily be abused and as such provide just another example of a direct threat to our democratic values/credentials. I would hasten to add that the same applies to Executive Actions issued by former President Barack Obama though these actions were not taken until exhausting efforts for bi-partisan support on important issues including healthcare & immigration reforms. Just the same, these forms of executive privileges represent a disastrous breach to democratic governance and I do not care how many times I hear US politicians talk about checks/balances because at this time I see no checks & plenty of imbalances in this current administration. One can imagine how leaders of autocratic regimes around the world particularly in the Middle East looking at all this smoke and thinking “wow, why didn’t I think of that? Oh sorry, actually we do just that”. In my mind all forms executive actions should allow parliamentary oversight, particularly ones that have big impact on long standing policies or on the level of reach/impact whether social, political, economic or security related.
- Disinformation: Although disinformation has always been used in the past between foreign adversaries the level at which this method has been used by the Russian government since 2016 is unprecedented – I’ve researched/continue to research this subject matter extensively. What makes this even more challenging is the advanced propagation methods/techniques and of course the abundance of possibilities/speeds when it comes to promoting this stuff on the Internet. That said it’s not only about propagators of disinformation but also about consumers of disinformation where political divisiveness has caused us to live in isolated silos of virtual realities. So it’s not only about external threats but also internal vulnerabilities of the political echo system – and frankly educational system where values of truth/integrity are not emphasised appropriately – that we have nurtured through the years that have come back to haunt us.
So what is the way forward in this shady echo system? Well it’s really quite simple at least in theory and when it comes to the starting point. We need an elected government with a strong mandate to look at working in a non-partisan manner to find/cover all loopholes in our political, legislative & media structures and more importantly ensure there is a process in place that re-evaluates the overall system on a regular basis to help bring innovative solutions to new challenges/threats. Liberal Democracy is hard and can no longer be taken for granted particularly after the recent experiences we’ve had in the past few years. It requires constant work across government departments and a system that allows it to evolve soundly; this of course aside from the day-to-day political/economic challenges. We need to ensure that the political eco-system is well protected from abuse which in turn ensures our policies are sound/effective from the outset – so I guess the “Big Picture” is important after all. The constitution itself should not be seen as written in stone and should be allowed to evolve with time otherwise we end up with a Constitution written on hard stone but breaking the nation. The good news is that there are plenty of talented people out there that are able/keen to help both in and outside the political establishment as well as within the business community, so let’s find these talents and bring them into the mix to help drive new ideas and bring new energy to help protect our values/liberties.