What keeps democracies working?

I think it’s a fair question.    I think two pillars of a working democracy are a system of laws, in which no one is above or has special privileges  and freedom of the press.  Where democracies are failing, there is almost a universal attempt to silence dissent, usually by jailing journalists.  Access to the internet, particularly sites like mine, are banned.

This doesn’t happen in the US.   We may have a president who regularly bashes certain newspapers, such as the Washington Post or the New York Times, but this is strictly politics.  Commentary he does not like, he refers to as lies.  Those reporting the news,  in an inquisitive manner, are not failing.  They are working hard to get their facts straight.

Democracy was at work when the Miami-Herald wanted documents about the failed FIU bridge.  It wasn’t  headline news.  The Miami-Herald is  seeking release of many documents from the state government  including minutes of  meetings of involved parties prior to the collapse of the FIU bridge.  There were reports of cracks appearing in the bridge about 10 days before the installation.  The judge will decide in two weeks (around June 21) and whatever the decision, the state may either appeal the decision or comply.   Our judiciary branch,  not the legislature nor the executive branch, has the final word on the rights of people. Certain information can not be disclosed by government.   Any document related to the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of the FIU accident is considered confidential and the Miami-Herald is only asking for documents prior to the investigation.

Countries with failing democracies, resort to use of the police and their military, to suppress dissent.   It is our system of laws which protect us from being thrown in jail or otherwise intimidated for our beliefs.   The system is imperfect and sometimes misunderstood.  The police and FBI  must use all means of investigation at their disposal, which includes legal wiretap and informants.  It is not spying on our citizens, but doing its job in crime enforcement.

This same system of laws may mean that certain information is not made public.  The media is always filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and when the governments refuse, they go to court.   It is our system working to have these clashes.   I don’t like Judicial Watch (JW) because of their strongly Republican bias and frequently politically motivated headlines, but I respect their constitutional right to seek release of information from government.

I would add a third pillar to democracy which is an informed and participating public.   We’re not doing too good here.  Only 43% of Americans voted in our last election.  We can do better.

In sum, democracies need a system of law for everybody, freedom of the press, and an informed and participating public to keep working.

My New York Times (print copy) just came, and my Washington Post is waiting to be opened.  Sorry Donald – Got to go.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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