Not long before the first democratic election in Egypt’s long history, an observer said, “I hope they will select correctly.” But isn’t that, by definition, what the democratic process is meant to determine?
Much of America’s foreign policy since World War II has consisted of public demands for free elections and quiet support for autocratic allies. No wonder we view the uprisings in the Arab world and elsewhere with both excitement and trepidation. What we advocate is happening, and we have no control over it.
Who could have imagined:
- In Belfast, Queen Elizabeth, dressed all in apple green, shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s current deputy first minister and former Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army, which assassinated the queen’s cousin, ignited a series of lethal bombings across Britain, and plotted the murder of the royal family.
- In Cairo, Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been banned since 1948, being sworn in as Egypt’s president.
- In Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi released from two decades of house arrest and promptly elected to Burma’s Parliament.
Indeed, the one country where cynicism about the electoral process seems to have taken firmest root is this one. Barely half of America’s eligible voters participate in presidential years, a third in off years. The amount of money unleashed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision undermines our confidence in the fairness of our own elections.
Instead of patronizingly judging the outcomes of elections on the other side of the world, we should focus on fixing what is happening here.