What does democracy look like?

Back in January the United States received a bit of humbling news.

The US has been downgraded to a "flawed democracy" from a "full democracy" by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its 2016 "Democracy Index" report.
Although the report's publication comes shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, the EIU analysts write that the US was not downgraded because of him. Rather, they argue, his surprise election was an effect of the underlying causes that led the EIU to downgrade the US.
The analysts write that a key factor in the drop was Americans' growing distrust in governmental institutions...
Additionally, the EIU argues that rising income inequality has been an underlying factor in growing distrust.

I would put it slightly different.
I would say that rising wealth inequality has led to a two-tiered justice system, where the wealthy and powerful are virtually immune from punishment, while the poor live in a merciless police state, and this environment has caused a breakdown in trust.
But that's just me talking.

So when I looked at the list I saw that we share the "Flawed Democracy" category with the Dominican Republic.
Since I happened to have lived in the DR during the 2012 presidential election, I would like to share with you what a "flawed democracy" looks like.

The 2012 election was between Danilo Medina of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD, Purple) and former president Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD, White).
The PLD's roots go back to the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo (aka el jefe), but that's another story.

Anyway, what did Danilo and Hipolito stand for?
Answer: They stood for getting elected.
Neither the PLD or the PRD had a political platform. At least not one in writing and publicly available.
Presidential elections in the DR featured zero political debates. Nada.
Since neither candidate and political party talked about actual politics, a debate would be kind of pointless.

So if there were no political issues, what were the campaigns like?
One word: bachata.

Dominicans are crazy over bachata, so the presidential candidates' goal is to create the better bachata song, and then play it everywhere at full volume all the time.
No really. That sums up election season in the DR.

Here's Hipolito's.

Note: Hipolito's campaign slogan was "Llego Papa". Roughly translated, it means "Here's Daddy". No, that's not a joke.

Here's Danilo's

Based on these bachata songs, who would you vote for?

There were two other elements of their election season to consider.
1) Votes were openly purchased. I had more than one person tell me that their vote would be determined by which campaign gave them the most money.
2) The first thing party that won would do is fire all political government employees. In the DR that started at government agencies and went all the way down to rural public school teachers.
Needless to say, the public school system was a disaster of such epic proportions that it made public school in the U.S. look like a utopia.

47 users have voted.


When will the true netroots assert pressure to change the direction? e=mc^2. You remain m. your task: find you c squared.

14 users have voted.

Fighting for democratic principles,... well, since forever

Pricknick's picture

I have no idea what true democracy looks like.
Is we in one?

23 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

Amanda Matthews's picture

that what we're living doesn't seem to resemble all the hype I've heard and read about 'democracy' all these long years. Maybe this is the Bizarro World version.

16 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Amanda Matthews It's not even a republic. It's not even a "flawed" republic.

17 users have voted.

Voting for the party currently agitating for war with Russia seems adverse to the notion of promoting good government.
--on the cusp

divineorder's picture

9 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

Dominicans would be offended.

10 users have voted.


I think I liked the first one better, but I only listened to the first bit in each case.

0 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

During the robber baron days our congress was involved in bribery and other corruption and the bribery is still happening, they just call it lobbying. I still don't understand how this is legal.
Here's Garfield speaking about corruption of congress in 1891
It seems that we have been very tolerant of their corruption.
James Garfield was the 20th president and the second president to be assassinated. Interesting that Robert Todd Lincoln was present when he was assassinated and he had also been present when his father was assassinated 16 years earlier.
This article includes information about how Crédit Mobilier of America, a financial institution was involved with the financing of the Union Pacific railroad and which congress members were involved with it.

20 users have voted.

A noun, a verb and Putin.

Pluto's Republic's picture

…did not bode well for the century ahead. Arizona was still a territory of Northern Mexico and we were still riding high on the tremendous bounty that a continent-wide genocide had given to us.

From @snoopydawg :

During the robber baron days our congress was involved in bribery and other corruption and the bribery is still happening, they just call it lobbying. I still don't understand how this is legal.

The so-called "independent" press and for-profit media has not been very helpful in conveying issues and concepts like these to ordinary Americans. In Garfield's time, there was a preeminent New York journalist named John Swinton, who made the following comments at a press banquet back in the 1880s:

There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."


Have we ever actually had a functioning democracy?

I can't be sure. I never lived in one.

8 users have voted.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.” Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”

At that point Franklin was comparing the Republic, a representative republican form of government with a Monarchy. The Founders were averse to a real Democracy as they did not trust the voters, and back then the voters were White property owning Males. Only the House was elected by the people.

We started with a weak democracy and are now at a (very) flawed democracy. In a Capitalist economy the people will always compete with the Oligarchs for power, the more power that the entrenched elite have the weaker the democracy. Citizens United decision was a very severe blow to democracy. The Oligarchs get stronger and stronger at the continual loss of democracy for the people.

There is only a very narrow window for the people to move the country towards democracy. We do vote for many offices, but the elite control the choice of candidates and fund the marketing of those candidates. Hillary Klinton was smart in understanding how the system worked and playing it to the max. What she neglected to understand is that the system has become repulsive to the people and they saw her as an integral part of that system, perhaps the poster child of a most repulsive, corrupt system. It is beyond belief that she sold access to her office and that she deleted evidence after receiving a subpoena, and got away with it.

If we want a democracy we will have to elect candidates who are committed to introducing democracy into the United States. We will need a working majority in Congress and a change to the US Constitution. It seems like this has no chance until the people are really fed up. Perhaps the Orange Buffoon will get us there. After all he is the ultimate oligarch, doing whatever he wants with his new found powers. Everything that he does exposes the fact that underlying everything we are not a country of laws, run by and for the people.

20 users have voted.

Capitalism has always been the rule of the people by the oligarchs. You only have two choices, eliminate them or restrict their power.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

when the cast of Star Wars were the guest stars--

Luke Skywalker says to Kermit "Listen, mister, we're on a mission. There's no way we're going to get involved with some third-rate variety show."

Kermit responds "Second-rate variety show!"

Flawed democracy, LOL.

Why, because we only recently had our electoral process taken over by something called The Department of Homeland Security? Or was it the three instances of actual election fraud in the Presidential race in the last sixteen years?

22 users have voted.

Voting for the party currently agitating for war with Russia seems adverse to the notion of promoting good government.
--on the cusp

detroitmechworks's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal Of course Mark's been doing voices for his entire career...

Seriously though, if we could sell our votes legally, I would. Because it's worth nothing, according to the DNC, so might as well get some cash out of it. I'll happily vote for whoever they say to, as long as cash is up front.

Nah, just kidding. I'd do what the politicians do. Take the money then vote for something completely different because "Circumstances forced my hand".

10 users have voted.

I don't Blame Christians. I Blame Stupid. Which Sadly, is a much more popular religion these days.

ggersh's picture

has morphed into The Corporations of amerika"

Co-CEO's Koch's-Soros
BOD's from WS/SP500/MIC etc.etc.
Analysts are the 546 working in DC

most everyone else living in amerika-fodder.

11 users have voted.


If it wasn't broken why fix it? The crapification of the
US continues.

Azazello's picture

5 users have voted.
CB's picture

12 users have voted.

Every Dominican without exception calls them "ladrones" (thieves or pirates).

8 users have voted.

Has a tune, although rhythm isn't as hot and trendy.
Uh...we sort of do the same thing here except with slogans, not tunes.
Tee shirts and caps and posters and chants...
Nothing of substance underneath them.

6 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@on the cusp No way I'd ever vote for "Here's Daddy!" Gag!

If we're gonna vote on basis of songs, I vote for this:

1 user has voted.

Voting for the party currently agitating for war with Russia seems adverse to the notion of promoting good government.
--on the cusp

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

Thanks, I enjoyed that and it has my vote, too, even if people can't vote as loudly as can corporations and billionaires even in places which used to be much closer to democracies prior to NAFTA...

1 user has voted.

OMG, just like the US election, only with less music....


...The analysts write that a key factor in the drop was Americans' growing distrust in governmental institutions...
Additionally, the EIU argues that rising income inequality has been an underlying factor in growing distrust. ...

Since the fact that the American public interest and public will is not considered, apart from the odd social bone-toss, and has no real effect on policy blatantly run by the wealthiest self-interests, was apparently not taken into account by the analysts, the fact that America was rated as any sort of democracy becomes more understandable.

The analysts evidently don't think of democracy as 'government of, by and for the people in the public interest' and concern themselves more with the level of the people's understanding of the fact that they're being used and abused by self-interests as to whether the pretense of democracy can be maintained by a Parasite Class. At least, it would certainly appear so, from the rating system used. Colour me surprised.

1 user has voted.