The Death of Democracy 1.0

9 NOVEMBER 2020

While the votes for the US elections are still being counted, the body of Democracy 1.0 can be laid to rest. As D M Ramesh notes in his book "Quest for Democracy 2.0", the essence of democracy was representation of the people. No constitution has the phrase "political party" enshrined in it. The word "people" is mentioned many times in many constitutions. Abraham Lincoln wanted a democracy where the government is "Of the people, For the people, By the people".

The birth and rise of the political party to represent a body of thought - a collective group of people with similar ideas - has morphed into a government which is "of the party, for the party, and by the party".

People no longer influence the party they join. The party indoctrinates them with their equivalent of a Mao's Red Book. Any deviation can result in an expulsion. And an expulsion means no money to fight elections. A candidate for any election in many parts of the world without the backing of the political party - and its money might - has no chance of winning.

The tragedy of Democracy 1.0 - whether in India, the UK, the US - is that it has been hijacked by "political parties" who, like a rogue company, pretend they are providing customers a beneficial service or product when, in fact, their product kills the very democracy it was to serve.

While flag-waving voters were turning out in record numbers in the 2020 US elections, the essence of democracy as a people's representative was buried under an obscene avalanche of money power.

Table 1: Election spends in 2020 higher than spend of 2016 and 2012, combined!

US ELECTION 2020 2016 2012 2008 2004
DEMOCRAT 75,245,603 62,523,126 65,915,795 69,498,516 59,028,444
REPUBLICAN 70,821,392 61,201,031 60,933,504 59,948,323 62,040,610
OTHERS 2,474,195 6,464,094 2,236,111 1,866,981 1,226,291
TOTAL 148,543,210 130,190,267 129,087,422 131,315,828 122,297,349
VOTING ELIGIBLE POP 239,247,182 230,931,921 235,248,000 229,945,000 216,000,000
TURNOUT 62.10% 56.40% 54.90% 57.10% 56.60%
% Democrat 50.70% 48.00% 51.10% 52.90% 48.30%
% Republican 47.70% 47.00% 47.20% 45.70% 50.70%
TOTAL Democrat+ Republican 98.30% 95.00% 98.30% 98.60% 99.00%
INDEPENDENT VOTES 1.70% 5.00% 1.70% 1.40% 1.00%
MONEY SPENT, $ Billion $14.00 $6.50 $6.10 $5.10 $2.10
MONEY SPENT PER VOTE $94.25 $49.93 $47.25 $38.84 $17.17
MONEY SPENT PER VOTER $58.52 $28.15 $25.93 $22.18 $9.72
Source: Wikipedia, BBC

While the TV commentators are applauding the record voter turnout - as they should - and the fact that President Elect Biden and President Trump will each have received the highest number of votes for a candidate in any election in the history of the United States, the pundits forget to mention a few dark facts:

  1. The US$ 14 billion that was spent on the 2020 election cycle is more than the combined money spent in the previous two elections of 2016 (US$ 6.5 billion) and 2012 (US$ 6.1 billion);
  2. The money spent per vote won has increased by 5.5x between 2004 and 2020;
  3. The money spent per eligible voter has increased by 6x over the past 16 years;
  4. The "other" candidates, the Independents, who do not belong to either of the two established political parties saw their vote share plummet from 5.0% in the Hillary-Trump election war to 1.7% in the Biden-Trump battle - back to where it was in 2012 (1.7%) but still ahead of where it was in 2004 (1.0%).

The legalized influencing of elections via Political Action Committees in the US and the electoral bonds in India will embolden parties to become powerful engines for business groups.

The business of politics.

Politics is money and money is a business. Those in the business of making money are increasingly shaping politics and founders of tech companies - who control much of what we touch, see, and listen to - have no qualms about acting as self-anointed filters and sieves for society. As a result, the line between politics and business is blurred.

Take this simple test: jot down the name of a political party and now write the name of the industrial family (or company) you believe will do well if that party is in power. Do the reverse. Jot down the name an industrial family (or company) and now write the name of the political party which they are likely to fund to do well in business.

The constitutions of many democracies did not envisage this parasitic relationship between political parties, their candidates and the businesses they represent - or are represented by. The danger to the democratic election processes and democracy in countries like India, UK and USA is not that the competing ideologies of state actors from China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan or Russia. As Democracy2.0 suggests, the threat is from the vice-like grip the political parties have on us as we reach for the ballot box and vote not for democracy but for a selection of crass candidates who - irrespective of race, ethnicity, caste, religion or nationality - eliminate any hope of waking up in Tagore's "heaven of freedom".


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Disclaimer: The Honest Truth is authored by Ajit Dayal. Ajit is Founder of Quantum Advisors Pvt. Ltd. which is the Sponsor of Quantum Asset Management Company Pvt. Ltd – the Investment Manager of the Quantum Mutual Funds. Ajit is also the Founder of Quantum Information Services which owns Equitymaster and PersonalFN. The views mentioned herein are that of the author only and not of Quantum Advisors, Quantum AMC or Equitymaster. The information provided herein is compiled on the basis of publicly available information, internally developed data and other sources believed to be reliable by the author. The information is meant for general reading purpose only and is not meant to serve as a professional guide / investment advice for the readers. Readers are advised to seek independent professional advice and arrive at an informed investment decision before making any investment. Whilst no specific action has been suggested or offered based upon the information provided herein, due care has been taken to endeavour that the facts are correct, accurate and reasonable as on date. None of the Author, Quantum Advisors, Quantum AMC, Equitymaster, their Affiliates or Representative shall be liable for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, consequential, punitive or exemplary losses or damages including lost profits arising in any way on account of any action taken basis the data / information / views provided in The Honest Truth.

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2 Responses to "The Death of Democracy 1.0"

VENKATASUBRAMANIAN

Nov 19, 2020

KUDOS TO THE INFORMATION. WE STAND MUTE SPECTATORS, OFCOURSE. APPLE/GOOGLE/MICROSOFT CAN FINANCE A ROCKET LAUNCH, MARS MISSION, TOPPLE ANY GOVT ON EARTH. DEMOCRACY IS VIRTUALLY 2 PARTY SYSTEM. COMMUNISM IS SINGLE PARTY. BEING 50%, COMMUNISM IS ALSO DEMOCRATIC. PITIABLY

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VP SHARMA

Nov 9, 2020

An excellent postmartem of the prevailing conditions of any / all the Democratic claiming countries , which the founding fathers of the states have never thought of and we do not see any way / solution to be insulated from this Nexus . Perhaps dynastic rule governed / controlled by the council of the experts of the state subjects is a better ways ; though it has its own pitfalls.

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