North Texas Daily

Democracy, at home and abroad

Democracy, at home and abroad

Democracy, at home and abroad
March 28
21:32 2017

On March 25, the European Union celebrated its 60th anniversary. Jean Monnet, one of its founding fathers, said the idea was to create an “ever closer union” – one where “Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”

The world today looks very different than it did back in 1957, and the promises of a democratic world and positive livelihood for the E.U. are facing uncertainties.

Today, we face the realities of how Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump will come to shape world power forever. This is not to say that our world will come crashing down, at least we hope not. But it is a clear shift on how we talk about the western world and its democracy.

Often, democracy is a synonym for a more free society – one that thrives on innovation and pluralism. But these events act as clear opposition to the idea of a more inclusive society. Faced with economic anxiety and heavy nationalistic movements, democracy faces a clear challenge, at home and abroad.

There are many elections happening in Europe right now, and the whole world is watching. Many are worried to see more countries follow the pattern set by the U.K. and U.S. last year.

Now there have been similar attitudes in Europe, akin to the U.S. presidential elections. Some of the first were the elections in the Netherlands, when Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-European Freedom Party, ran. The elections were said to be Europe’s first big test on how it would react to the center-right ideals of Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Rutte ended up winning the most seats with a high turnout of voters, which benefits pro-Europe and liberal parties alike. Wilders’ party only won 15 seats and many hope his defeat will set the tone for what is to come in European political history.

The next elections are in France, where the focus had been on Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the National Front, and François Fillon of the centrist-right until recently. After the newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné presented claims that Fillon’s wife “had what amounted to a no-show public job as parliamentary aide,” Emmanuel Macron gained a lot more support and is now Le Pen’s main opposition.

Marine Le Pen has also risen in the polls, but the chances of her winning are slim. To be fair, Le Pen has not been shy of her nationalistic rhetoric and apparent friendliness with Vladimir Putin, which puts more into question about the vulnerability of democratic elections.

If we take our focus off the “old world” and look at younger countries, we may be able to see the promise of democracy. For instance, South Korea has gone through quite the political crisis. While the country is no stranger to leaders that have undergone criminal charges or scandals, its former president is the latest tea of the nation.

President Park Geun-hye is South Korea’s first female president and the first democratically elected leader to be impeached. There has been a long history of leaders abusing their power, and Park was no exception after disclosures came that she allowed an associate to access government documents.

All of these events have unfolded at a time when the world seems to be moving faster than we expect it, and new things happen almost daily. It seems as though the world we once knew is changing and is leaving behind the world order once in place.

These events should serve as a lesson, and we need to pay attention. Democracy is strong, but if we look away, it may slip from our hands, as sand in the ocean caught by a wave. The true fabric of democracy depends on people demanding a more free and just world, and it is up to us to truly create an “ever closer union.”

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

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Gabriela Macias

Gabriela Macias

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