UPDATED: Democracy at work in Palestine

News & Politics

The results of Palestinian elections are still being tallied but it looks like Hamas is the big winner. The Bush administration -- cheap democracy rhetoric and all -- has reacted curiously to the will of the Palestinian electorate, 77% of whom voted. A "terrorist" group emerges as the victors in a democracy:

The Hamas victory "reminds me about the power of democracy," Bush said.
"You see, when you give people the vote, give them the chance to express themselves at the polls and they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know," he said.
Bravo. Fine. He likes Democracy. But the Hamas victory, like the electoral victory of theocrats in Iraq, illustrates just why Democracy isn't everything.

I'm no fan of Hamas. But it should be noted that along with their abhorrent extremist positions toward Israel and violence against innocents, they've won the trust of many Palestinians with a combination of services to the needy and uncompromising will in the face of some very poor odds.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Hamas' political power comes directly from extremist elements in Israel. Likkud's uncompromising and brutal handling of the conflict has tilted power away from moderate leaders who could've been perceived as having the power to make change and toward extremists like Hamas, whose hardline position is the only one that makes sense in the face of unyielding Sharonian tactics.

So Democracy is dirty and chaotic. Not quite the bromide Bush has touted it as -- Iraq's elections have shown us that, if nothing else. Thomas Hobbes, who I've been reading a bit about lately, advocated for dictatorship as a solution to the fickleness and unpredictability of democracy.

The famous political philosopher, known personally as a very sweet man, nevertheless had strong authoritarian leanings and is responsible for the quote known to every grade school grad: Life is nasty, brutish and short (the actual quote is: "[Life is] ...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short").

Point is this. I'm neither advocating for Hamas nor an alternative to democracy; it may well be the best there is, warts and all. But democracy on its own is not the thing it's just a thing -- a means to an end.

The lesson for Isreal, Palestine, Iraq and the US is: Compromise and genuine attempts to reach out to the majority with policies that assure peace, prosperity and self-determination will promote the democratic election of more moderate less bellicose leadership.

But how will Bush ultimately spin this cognitive dissonance where a "terrorist" group has won a democratic election? It all depends on whether he's challenged on this fundamental hitch in the plan. So far the Democrats have avoided the topic -- a path fraught with pitfalls to be sure. Nobody wants to be "against democracy" but someone does need to point out that democracy isn't an end, just a means to it. Message machine, power up!

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