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