The Plank

A Sad Commentary


Michael Rubin:

Obama abandons Democracy

studiously avoids the word democracy.  Instead, he declared, "That does
not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will
of the people."  Dictators of the world, relax: Stage a spontaneous
demonstration to demonstrate popular adulation; don't worrt about those
pesky votes.

Barack Obama:

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.  (Applause.)

I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of
democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to
the war in Iraq.  So let me be clear: No system of government can or
should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that
reflect the will of the people.  Each nation gives life to this
principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own
people.  America does not presume to know what is best for everyone,
just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful
election.  But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for
certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how
you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal
administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't
steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are
not just American ideas; they are human rights.  And that is why we
will support them everywhere.  (Applause.)

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise.  But this
much is clear:  Governments that protect these rights are ultimately
more stable, successful and secure.  Suppressing ideas never succeeds
in making them go away.  America respects the right of all peaceful and
law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree
with them.  And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments --
provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for
democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are
ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.  (Applause.)  So no
matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people
sets a single standard for all who would hold power:  You must maintain
your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights
of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and
compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the
legitimate workings of the political process above your party.  Without
these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

--Jonathan Chait

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