By Carolina Bell Meoño - International Relations degree student
Democracy can have unexpected results, something citizens of democratic countries rarely consider throughout their internal election processes, or quickly forget. Resulting candidates don’t always have the peoples’ best interest in mind, and democratic processes can go wrong due to misrepresentation and lack of education. This generates a domino effect on the rest of the world, bringing back hate speech, racism, sexism, and homophobia in opportunistic public political figures. In essence, democratic countries can take their voting privileges for granted, leading to a crisis of democratic legitimacy and representation. A perfect example is Donald Trump who, aware of the misrepresentation of a few millions, used populist tactics, praying on feelings of anger and remorse, making racist, sexist, and homophobic comments that ignited rage worldwide… but that actually worked. How did this happen? Representation is the answer, misrepresentation the cause, and populism the political approach preferred by those willing to step in front of a crowd, and spit out words with no regards to consequences and reactions.
The Trump effect has had so much momentum since 2016 that other political figures around the world have repeated his tactics without remorse. Figures like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Fabricio Alvarado in Costa Rica, and Luigi Di Maio in Italy. Call it correlation or causation, irresponsible rhetoric has direct consequences on the population, and although it is believed the world has collectively moved past believing hate speech, recent political events demonstrate the opposite. Is democracy no longer adequate? That might be the case, but not the point to fixate on. What should be understood and remembered is that education is key to unraveling and dissecting the speeches, statements, and overall rhetoric utilized by candidates that run for public office, because candidates such as these have and will exist as long as powerful positions are available to influence and rule. In short, education is literally the only way to avoid these types of politicians from reaching public offices.
Now, democracy can in fact go wrong when by democratic processes an unfit candidate wins, and though “democracy” means “rule of the people”. The term has evolved over the years and should now be contextualized to its current usage and understanding by the people, who believe this word to mean more than just ruling. Democratic countries around the world now understand this word as a representation of protection and promotion of their rights, interests, and welfare.
Democracy has shown to be the way of representation; however, democracy can be as fragile as ever, and people willing to take advantage of democratic processes will always exist. Democracies can benefit from remembering that politics is personal and affects everyone, and, through education, citizens can understand that the power to vote is also a privilege. Democracies will always allow for candidates of all backgrounds and ideologies to run, and these will never represent 100% of the nation, but can mark the difference between influencing a country to become respectful and empathetic or resentful and intolerant. The world should be informed of political results around the globe, especially first world countries which influence other political election processes and the candidates that come forward. Through an informed global view, people can identify patterns detrimental to a society that is more connected and globalized than ever before.