What an odd title but that is exactly what is going on in Egypt right now. A similar juxtaposition also occurred inside the minds of some Americans back on July 4th 1863 (exactly 150 years ago) as they begin to bury the dead from both sides in Gettysburg. Since human beings are 99.5% the same, what Egypt is now bearing must create some intro-inspection upon how things are going here in the US as well.
I was shown an email passed among Tea Partiers that whooped: ”Egypt got rid of their dictator; Why can’t we get rid of ours?” Ironically the popular vote percents are strikingly similar… Morsi won with 51.7%; Obama with 51.1%… Yet Egypt is in the middle of a coup; and Obama is being hailed as the first since Dwight to have solidly won over 51% for both terms…
Just looking at a chart over our nation’s history one sees just how tight our popular vote margin is. (one also sees the margin of victory is a bad indicator of just how good a president will be)…
It’s a good thing we have an electoral college to decide matters for us, and create a more determinable method of preventing what Egyptians and many of out tea partiers think should happen now….
I know many decry Bush’s win (-0.51$) over Gore and use that to promote an amendment to abolish the Electoral College. However America survived far better than Egypt (+1.7%) is doing now, with even worse violations against the the popular vote total… Through the House of Representatives, these people became President: Benjamin Harrison (-0.83%), Rutherford B. Hayes (-3.00), and John Quincy Adams (-10.44%) all with more of a percentage loss than had George W. Bush over Gore. In two of the three, the loser returned to whomp the stealer out of his second term. One of these “losers” even had a 51% popular vote majority!
But the electoral college provided decisiveness. Just like in football or basketball, the final score may not portray the better team, but it provides a finality from which we can all move on.
The demise of Morsi is a great chance to bring up this issue, simply to force us to understand why our founding fathers who were unburdened at that point by political parties, could by using what today are called “thought models”, come up with this peculiar institution that has well served it’s test over time. Couple that to the fact that even today, we have something almost akin to a political party vying for the forced overthrow our our elected top official, one can imagine the rancor and violence that might have tainted our nation’s development if we did not have a clear uncontestable “score” that determined our winners from losers.
One must be cautious when comparing today’s Egypt with today’s American democracy. Egypt is in its founding stages. As Morsi proclaimed, removing him removes all legitimacy of any future democratically elected government. As did Julius Caesar to all future democracy in Rome.
It makes us realize how lucky we are today that all of America was unified behind George Washington as it’s first head of state. That unanimity of opinion, allowed the slow formation of traditions we now have today to take root. For one, Washington did not impose himself (as did Morsi) by aligning with either the Democrats or Federalists on policy at the expense of the other.
Morsi made that mistake with the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead, unlike the current head of Egypt, George Washington held court over a myriad of opinions, and picked and chose in the fashion of King Solomon, almost the same as he did at the Constitutional Convention, of which was the most judicious approach on the basis of each proposal’s merits. It is worth noting, that towards the end of his second term as the political parties were being formed for the upcoming 1798 race, he himself became quite disgusted with the smears, dirt, graft, and corruption required to enable any country to run effectively upon its own power…
Perhaps because Egypt did not endure a long war of Independence, it does not respect the cost of freedom. Perhaps because democracy came to Egypt in its first time like a pack of chewing gum in a cashiers line, they easily think they can replace it again with a better flavor?
But this foreboding irony of Egypt remains. Instead of comparing it with American Democracy, suppose we go Godwin and compare it to the German election of 1932. What if the Germans had risen up a year later against Hitler and thrown him out? That would be good thing right? Or had Mao been pushed out and the Chinese business reforms begun 40 years earlier? Or had North Korea said “unh unh” to its dictator in the first year? Or had Centrists in Iran risen and prevailed over the Ayatollah?
The Turkish Army as well as the Pakistani Army has on occasion stepped in and then later bowed out whenever control has become precarious. Perhaps this is the only model that works well for overly excitable Arab populations? it is a longterm democracy with military safeguards built into its Constitution.
But one thing is very clear from this current outcome is this: religion can play NO part in government, even if given a political mandate. Living vicariously through Egypt it is clear there must be an impenetrable wall between that which belongs to Caesar, and that which belongs to God. All political entities who have dared mix religion into their political framework, have populations who are deeply suffering now (relative to those in strictly secular governments), even when that religious entity is the Chairman of the ruling political party himself, as is the case in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, or as was of Japan and Germany during the second world war…
It’s a lesson the US should take to heart. They next time anyone decries we need more religious people in our democracy, cut them off with this: ”Remember Iran; Remember Egypt.”
As Americans we are not immune to Civil War. From it we learned it is a horrible alternative to walk away from one’s existing structure simply because one does not get one’s own way… We also learned that one can’t impose one’s will on vast majorities of ourselves who think differently.
Third. We learned that freedom is great, but the need to eat is greater. Government first has to function to meet the basic needs of its citizens; only then, once its citizens are economically stable to be not worried whether they will be alive the day after tomorrow, can their thoughts begin to turn to topics such as does democracy even matter?
As US policy, our actions need to first get Egypt to feed themselves; Spare no expense; make it our generation’s Marshall Plan. Then once well fed and able to provide for themselves, can we begin to proselytize our points of view. Whether they choose democracy or totalitarianism, will depend solely on who they see helping them now in their time of need… One can talk of democracy’s long-term future implications, but that rings on deaf ears when all one really wonders, is if one will be alive the day after tomorrow.