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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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January 11, 2008 9:40 PM

More than a political system

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I was struck by a New York Times op-ed about the violence following Kenya's election. Aidan Hartley, a columnist for The Spectator, touches on how the violence has affected his family's farm in central Kenya. His observations about the situation is interesting, but what got me was this graf:

"Kenyan democracy has failed because ordinary people were encouraged to believe that the process in and of itself could bring change. So Kenya's leaders - and often international observers - interpret democracy simply in terms of the ceremony of multiparty elections. Polls bestow legitimacy on politicians to pillage for five years until the next depressing cycle begins.

In the campaign rallies I attended, I saw no debate about policies, despite the country's immense health, education, crime and poverty problems."

Sounds familiar. Not much difference between the United States and Kenya if "Kenyan democracy" is replaced by "American democracy," and Kenya's campaigns are swapped out for ours. American's should think about Hartley's assertion that Kenya's democracy failed because people believed that the system alone could bring change. Democracies only work with an informed, active citizenry.

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