Tag Archives: democracy

Club Fled

I couldn’t resist this one. In the Arab world and wherever else there’s a popular revolt against autocratic rule, it’s the dictator who ultimately flees. Not so in this country, evidently. In Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed outrageously punitive restrictions of collective bargaining rights for select public unions, sparking massive demonstrations, it’s the Democratic supporters of the unions who have fled to avoid a vote on the measures.

What Walker has proposed will certainly pass the GOP-controlled legislature when the Dems return. It’s a union-busting package, pure and simple, having nothing whatever to do with balancing the budget. In fact, the unions have already agreed to the proposed salary and pension cuts, but this is driven not by budget necessity, but by the reflexive Republican hatred of unions. It would be a little easier to swallow if the pain were spread equally, but the bill unfairly selects only those public unions that have traditionally supported Democrats and spares those that have not. Teachers get the axe, but Republican-leaning police and fire unions are spared. So much for sharing the burden.

Worse, this is a trial run for Republican governors in other states who are salivating at the chance to decimate their own public unions. After a few more years of this kind of authoritarian rule, will Americans rise up and throw the bums out? One can only hope. In the meantime, the wrong people are being forced to flee.

Egypt, Israel & Democracy

The Obama administration is helping negotiate the terms of Egyptian President Mubarak’s resignation. While we in this country might see this as advancing democracy in the Arab world, Israel is evidently under no such illusions. The Jewish State has witnessed the catastrophic result of so-called democratic elections in the Mideast with something less than joy. Iran ended up with an autocratic Islamic regime. Gaza elected Hamas and tossed out the more moderate Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon recently installed Hezbollah. There is certainly no guarantee that elections in Egypt would not empower the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak, for all his many faults, has maintained the peace with Israel, kept Hamas bottled up in Gaza, and made war against Israel by its neighbors a practical impossibility, to the great benefit of both countries.┬áIsrael sees moves by the United States to speed Mubarak’s departure as foolish in the extreme. The idea that caught my attention in a recent Huffington post article was that Israel believes that the United States has confused the “mechanics of democracy”–a popular election–with the real thing–an open and vibrant political conversation, all parties represented, minority concerns protected, an impartial judiciary, honest police, civilian control of the military, fair tax collection.

They have a point, one that has been confirmed again and again by the unfortunate outcomes of recent regime changes in the Muslim world. The United States failed for thirty years to demand that Mubarak moderate his authoritarian rule as a price of our support, instead buying into the notion that the only choice was Mubarak or the Islamists he repressed. With his fall now imminent, our unwavering economic and military aid to an increasingly unpopular regime may well have made that assessment a self-fulfilling prophecy.