Lower the ballot box to halfmast: democracy has broken. Giselle Storm discussess…
When Florida turned red on BBC News I went to bed. The Guardian app buzzed on my phone in the early hours of the morning, but I rolled over and ignored it. This morning my phone stared at me ominously from across the room, little red numbers on the Facebook app darted upwards, and an occasional text lit up the screen.
I avoided having to deal with the results of the US election until 10am. After all, ignorance is bliss.
We can say what we want about Donald Trump (and I can assure you I will be shouting it from the rooftops, because while he may not be my president, he represents views that need to be spoken out against by everyone) and we can mourn that once again a qualified and capable woman has been overlooked in favour of a very loud man. More crushingly in this case, an incredibly unqualified man. We can prepare ourselves to stand together for what is set to be four years of the return of discrimination and racism, undoing decades of campaigning and progress. All these things need to be said and done and reflected upon, but I’ll leave that for others.
Today, for me, will always be the day that democracy died. I suspect it got ill around Brexit but today, sadly, it has passed away. May the ballot box be lowered to half mast and the Magna Carta painted black. Thinking back to the hazy days of my politics A Level I remember there being two arguments surrounding democracy, one was that it was always good, no matter the outcome because it was the will of people and that was inherently good. The other was that democracy was only good if the outcome was good. The ends did not always, it seemed, justify the means.
I’ve always considered myself in the first group, people should be able to hold their government to account; they should have a say. It doesn’t matter what that say is, as long as it’s being said and heard, because people should be able to direct their states and their lives.
I still stand by this, in theory. In practice it has turned into a very different, uglier beast. All the components that made democracy work have been swamped in smear campaigns, lies and viciousness. The truth has become irrelevant, discussion has departed and debate has become a performance piece. The values of common human decency, of equality, become secondary in the face of who talks the better game. Democracy has been reduced to Tweetable phrases and videos which will hold our thirty second attention span. The information is unreliable, the campaigns often blatantly lie. What does it mean to even knowingly make a decision, to choose, when you never really know what you are choosing? And what does it mean to win, when outdated voting systems mean the majority rule doesn’t always…well..rule?
Democracy has stopped being about talking and understanding, it has become about ‘winning’. The buzzword of the past six months, and damn the consequences as long as you win. The irony being, perhaps specifically in light of last nights events, that there are no winners. We, the people, are meant to be the ones who win; we are meant to be the ones benefitting. We pick a camp, we cross ourselves and we run full pelt into battle. Debates lead to dogmatism, rather than progress and tempers flare. What is actually being said, policies, argument, is drowned out by a mad desire to ‘win’, to be heard. The result is that politicians stand on platforms, leaking emails, making up statistics about black gun crime, grabbing women by the pussy and painting £300 million on the side of a bus and telling us that it is real. After all, we’ve all got so used to being lied to by those in power, these days it’s just a matter of picking your favourite lie. Who lies the least? Has become the question, and sometimes even the answer to that is irrelevant.
But all we’ve done is divided ourselves, half the country points a finger at the other half and shouts ‘you! You did this!, while the other half shouts back ‘well you made us do it!’. We swing from scared to angry and we all feel threatened. We feel threatened by the mythical idea of immigrants stealing your job, by a madman in the most powerful seat in the world, by the policemen pointing guns at you because of the colour of your skin, or by a sense of an angry and disenfranchised mass of people bubbling beneath the surface of society.
Experts and politicians smile condescendingly down at you from their pedestals, telling you that they know best; that this will be better for everyone and you listen, for decades. You listen and you believe in them and you think that yes, things will get better, but they don’t. At least not for you. You watch as the elites, and the better educated, and the wealthier flourish under the guidance of these experts and politicians, and you stand there, left behind, disenfranchised and ignored.
Then a shouty man comes along, and he is everything that the other experts and politicians are not. He’s loud and vicious, and seems to share that same bitterness and frustration that you have. He tells you that you will finally ‘win’, that you will be great again. He stands for a change; he overturns the politics we have known all our life. he may not be good, you may not even agree with alot of what he says and does, but he is a finger up to the experts and the political elite, and this is what you need.
Your democratic vote goes to fucking the system, the system that people around the world would, and sometimes do, die for.
It is not only ignorance, racism or sexism that drove this election. These are dangerous ideas which act as fodder for more anger and division. This is what will continue to divide countries as one group look down on another deeming them stupid and hateful, this will create more alienation and withdrawal from society. But aside from these, it was an act of desperation.
Democracy died the day that we stopped listening to each other, when we stopped being united on the most fundamental level; as people.
We have divided ourselves, we have drowned out the other side. Today, all democracy feels like is a shouting match. Consequences be damned, we want to win, let policies be non-existent and lies emblazoned on a bus. We all feel scared and threatened, we all feel disenfranchised, we all feel like something is deeply and distinctly wrong. We want to be great again, but we are the only one’s stopping ourselves.
Follow Giselle on Instagram: @gisellestorms