Resisting Indifference to Democracy
The consolidation of democracy in so many countries has brought about an indifference to democracy. Most citizens take for granted democracy exists so long as elections remain relatively free and fair. They do not worry about the wear and tear every democracy suffers over time. Instead, people think of consolidation as something eternal. Democracy allows citizens to focus on disagreements over policy and ideology or it may even allow people simply not to worry about politics at all. The consolidation of democracy gave its citizens the permission to forget about tyranny or oppression. So, most citizens did. It can’t happen here became a common refrain in Western liberal democracies.
Unfortunately, democracy is not metaphysical. It depends on institutions, norms, and governance in the physical world. Moreover, democracy requires constant repair and maintenance. Laura Gamboa emphasizes, “The erosion of democracy happens over time.” Part of the problem is due to leadership. Gamboa refers to aspiring autocrats who want to seize greater power while maintaining a democratic facade. However, many other leaders are simply indifferent to democracy. Leaders like Joko Widodo in Indonesia do not seem to care whether their actions harm or help democracy. They simply want to get things accomplished.
Still, democracy can face declines whether its leaders are hostile or indifferent to it. Moreover, democracy will not recover unless citizens and their leaders repair the damage whenever possible. Part of the solution is simply to mitigate the harm during episodes of backsliding. However, it’s also important to reinforce institutions after those periods are over. It’s also important to simply focus on good governance to revive faith in democracy itself. But most important of all, we must remind ourselves that democracy is on the ballot in every election. We must resist our indifference to democracy.