Monday 1 January 2018

"Pretty relevant I think"

Certainly the common assumption after the end of the Cold War that liberal democracy would sweep all before it and spread all over the world has been shattered. On the eve of a New Year at the end of the politically tumultuous one that was 2017, we're asking if we are at a critical tipping point all over the world. For there's also the rise of the hard-right in Europe, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. That's forced some to question basic assumptions about the wisdom of the rule of the majority. Of course, Winston Churchill once said this: many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise; indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." But he also said this: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter". (Mark Mardell, The World This Weekend, 31/12/2017)

Just nipping back a year to yesterday again and Mark Mardell's The World This Weekend, which devoted the bulk of its programme to asking if, worldwide, democracy has seen its brightest days already. Given "the rise of the hard-right in Europe, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump", "some" have been "forced" to "question basic assumptions about the wisdom of the rule of the majority", said Mark (without telling us who this "some" are). His programme then duly "forced" itself  to do the same.

It was interesting, and had a varied guest list of experts (the excellent Niall Ferguson, the excellent Helen Thompson and, er, Yascha Mounk) and plenty of necessary disagreement (especially between Niall and Yascha). 

That said, Mark Mardell can't help revealing his own opinions. After citing a quote from Honest Abe...:
I want to throw in a quote from former American president Abraham Lincoln; "Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds then they will just have to sit on their blisters". 
...he added:
Pretty relevant I think.
Now, what did he mean by that? In what way is Lincoln's talk of voters burning their behinds and getting blisters 'relevant' now? 

Well, Mark went on immediately to mention "the election of Donald Trump and the triumph of Brexit", so that's obviously what he was alluding too. 

I very much doubt that anyone who wasn't negative towards Brexit and Trump would have ever thought of applying Abraham Lincoln's quote in that way. 


  1. Yes poor Americans, saddled with Donald Trump, a 3% growth rate for their economy and 2 million new jobs created since his presidency started. Can it get any worse? Oh yeah, they're all getting a tax cut in February and Trump has promised an end to chain migration.

  2. I think it could equally well be a rebuke to the people who whinge about these electoral decisions but couldn't be bothered to participate in the first place.


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