Democracy is usually misrepresented as equivalent to access to elections.
The key problem with deceptive equivalence of democracy and elections is it causes the latter to be an obsession for politicians. Everything government and opposition parties say and do is an attempt to please or appease an assumed swing section of the electorate. Decisions, statements of intent and changes to law, regulations and practices are presented as if part of an election campaign.
Constant election campaign mode, characterised by reactive thinking, creates weak government where emphasis is opposite to good competent administration and productive policies. Instead, governance is erratic and inconsistent.
For politicians outside of government, obsession with elections obstructs development of cohesive ideology, of solutions to problems and of workable strategies to attain improvements. Expositions by opposition politicians of what they intend to do in government, how they will do it and, crucially, why it is the right route to take are stifled by constant electioneering that diverts attention away from progress toward fretting over opinion polls and fear of doing or saying anything that upsets anyone.
Supporters of Scottish independence had eighteen months to prepare for 2014 referendum. Rather than spend that time describing what independence would look like and explaining how a clear detailed vision of independent Scotland would be beneficial and preferable to remaining in the union, the campaigners focussed on trying to win a vote. It was combat between two competitors. Time was wasted in pointless “debates” with opposition. Independence supporters were so distracted by the contest that they forgot to prepare basic components of an independent nation including choice of currency, membership (or not) of European Union, ownership of fossil fuel reserves in North Sea, and whether a British monarch would be head of state.
Elections in UK in May 2021 were unsuccessful for Labour. Many potential Labour voters chose not vote. Their absence was motivated by lack of policy and ideology in Labour since April 2020. Keir Starmer and his shadow front bench colleagues were occupied with worrying about public opinion of any policy. Consequently, Labour chose to abandon the concept of being a political party. There were no policies, no opinions, no criticisms of Tory behaviour, and determination to not indicate what Labour was or where it was on the political spectrum. Fear of upsetting the electorate backfired and discouraged the electorate. Labour’s response to election results was to reaffirm its commitment to vacuity.
Fear of public opinion stops political parties from possessing boldness to recognise changes that are needed, to develop workable methods to attain and maintain those changes, and to explain concisely why the changes are necessary and how the methodology will succeed.
A second problem with elections is that they can remove democracy. The public can elect opponents of democracy and often do, though not always knowingly. Parties, or individuals (as president, mayor, etc.), can be elected who have no intention of exercising the key component of democracy: Working on behalf of the public. Donald Trump and Republican party, Scott Morrison and Liberal party, Boris Johnson and Tory party and Jair Bolsonaro were elected but none works for the people of their respective countries. All work assiduously for a small wealthy elite and, thus, are profoundly anti-democratic.
The purpose of many political parties is to help the wealthiest people and owners of large businesses. In most current democratic structures the choice for voters is limited between two or more such parties. This corruption of electoral process is a deliberate original feature of permitted democracy. Without the inclusion of this feature democracy would not have been allowed.
Elections are a legacy obstacle to democracy.
- Time and energy is wasted worrying about elections, and fear of election loss restricts vision and courage
- Opponents of functioning democracy are elected easily
False reduction of democracy to mere existence of elections removes its greater part. Access to electability for opponents of democracy removes any democratic aspect of elections.
True democracy is not dependent on elections. If elections determine government in a democracy then they should exclude anti-democratic participants. The right-to-vote is not only not equivalent to democracy but it can (and does) work against democracy.