US democracy is not crumbling due to Trump but because politicians neglected its building blocks
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A week ago the US and the world saw the culmination of four years of lies, racism, corruption and victimhood from the “Leader of the Free World”.
But what happened on Capitol Hill last Wednesday was not all the making of Donald Trump.
He had recognised and exploited the fissures in American politics, in place since President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, guaranteeing black people the right to vote in 1965. What followed was that for years mostly Republican politicians have tried to reverse course.
Funded by special interest groups, crucial when campaigning for elections, Republican politicians have abandoned all common sense to oppose affirmative action and civil rights for the LGBTIQ community.
While the US system of checks and balances is premised on “co-operative governance” and compromise, for 26 years the country’s partisan divides have made that impossible for career politicians. Tyrants around the world probably cheered on and celebrated the violent chaos on Capitol Hill as a repudiation of democracy.
In South Africa, our young democracy has been subjected to numerous tests from a corrupt leader who flagrantly broke the law to opposition politicians who have thrived on sowing anarchy and chaos.
The work of building a democracy does not cease at our glorious institutions or the fact that we have regular elections. US democracy is not crumbling because of Donald Trump, it is failing because politicians have neglected democracy’s building blocks. Instead of being vigilant, they have cowered to tribal considerations, which sees a loss of political power as a nearcataclysmic event.
What happens in Western democracies should be a lesson to all of us in the developing world who want to live in prosperous, tolerant and democratic societies.
Yes, it’s easy for leaders to sit in a room over several days, or even months, and write the rules (a constitution) by which we shall be governed. The difficult part is sticking to those rules and ensuring that those who violate them are cast aside.