Saturday, January 5, 2008

Democracy: Kenya does it better than we do.

First of all, I'm glad my Kenya trip was canceled. And if I prayed, I'd pray for Kenya.

Why? Well, because in the face of overwhelming voter turnout, in the face of people waiting in line to vote for more than seven hours, and in the face of bars refusing to serve you if you hadn't voted (hey, that's a good idea...we should get the alcoholism bloc out!), in the face of it all, Kibaki's (the incumbent) party rigged the elections.

Not much evidence as to precisely how, but consider: The count took over 24 hours to perform. Up until the last few precincts reported in, Odinga was overwhelmingly in the lead, but then, eleventh-hour-and-forty-five-minutes, hey presto, the last few precincts had amazing turnout--over 100% in some places--and Kibaki, on their overwhelming support, nosed ahead of Odinga. Protests. More protests. They announced it official, drove over to Kibaki's house to give him his certificate of office, and there he was, sitting with the Attorney General.

I guess they're friends. So, okay. They're friends. And lots of people voted in those last precincts. The thing that strikes me as most damning is Kibaki's subsequent willingness to compromise, and the place that willingness comes to an abrupt halt. What do I mean by that?

After the result was announced, Kikuyu residences and businesses were set on fire. Luo and Kikuyu engaged in violent encounters, and the police have stopped trying to enforce the law objectively as much and become partisan in their own right: hurt an officer? Your family dies. Or some of your family. Certainly you, at least. In the face of all this violence, everyone wants it to stop. No one likes to have the media blacked out, or to be possibly prosecuted for receiving or sending text messages that the government might deem "related to unrest". So let's stop the violence. Odinga has taken the "I'm not talking until you admit you cheated" stance, which seems a bit hard-line. Politicians never admit that they cheated; they just look for a suitably dignified excuse to vacate their office. It seems like Odinga has taken this stance because he's completely convinced at his correctness--he wants a new election, or a recount. The attorney general has called for a recount. Kibaki, though, has started to backpedal. He wants to form a coalition. A unified party. He wants to split the power with Odinga.

If he stood to lose nothing in a recount, or a new election, would he be willing to share power? I doubt it. He's willing to share the power he's got, but only under the condition that he gets to stay in power. That says that he's desperate for any degree of power: he knows he hasn't gotten away with it, and he's angling now to partially get away with it.

If he's willing to cut the baby in half, it ain't his baby.

Which brings me to the larger quandary--if you're truly a democrat (non-capitalized for a reason), then you believe that representatives ought to be the choice of the people via majority vote. Okay. So if you're not their choice, it's not personal. It's not 'cuz they think you have smelly feet, or that you're a Bad Person. I mean, some of them might think that, but if you were really the best person for the job, you'd be in the driver's seat. This is how we assume that democracy works.

So, if you're not the people's choice, why would you want to be president? You're not a president anymore, you're a dictator, a monarch. Who told you that you know better than all the people in the country who voted overwhelmingly for someone else, for something else? (And also, GWB, since when does that mean that you got a mandate from the voters?) Rigging elections is one way to do it, but ultimately you're only rigging them for two reasons: one, to shut the people up, and two, to facilitate your takeover. But you're not being democratic. You've proven to yourself, once you've rigged an election, that you're not in the democracy game. And the people will either do what the U.S. has done--deny it until it's four years old, and then rationalize like hell and be party to its happening again--or they'll do what the Kenyans are doing, and raise holy hell about it.

((Don't get me started about all the ways that GWB cheated, all the ways his first election was unconstitutional. And, anonymous THS student who vandalized and removed my bumper sticker, I hope you choke on it.))

We don't have a democracy--we have a corporatocracy, a bigmoneyocracy, a goodolboyocracy. Doesn't anyone remember their eleventh grade U.S. History class? The reason this country was amazing was that parties stepped down for one another. It's not supposed to be opposing clubhouses, taking potshots. It's supposed to be a bunch of people who all respect one another and also disagree. 'My honored adversary' should be the tone, not 'I will shoot you in the face'. 'How can we make this country better?' should be the question, not 'How can we make those other guys fail?'. When did politics become so personal? When did democracy sell out so completely? The U.S. is messed up, guys, messed up beyond fixing. Let's scrap it, go back to the drawing board. Un-gerrymander the districts, un-draw state lines, take a big old eraser to the Constitution, and start over.

Better yet, let's abolish idiots and bigots, leaving the country to the accepting and kind (irony, anyone?).

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