Democracy is difficult. The Danish election two days ago shows us that the US could learn from Denmark. Meanwhile we are waiting for the American mid-term elections.
There they were, all eleven heads of the Danish political parties, representing the spectrum in Danish politics. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the very night of the parliamentary election. Traditionally, on election night, after all votes have been tallied, all party leaders participate in a joint session on the Danish public service tv channel DR to answer questions from the media. The atmosphere was civil, no one accusing anyone of cheating. I was completely stunned and quite moved. I must have forgotten how a well-functioning democratic process works.
My daughter and I were watching the live broadcast from Seattle. I explained the Danish political system, which she was somewhat confused about. Denmark has a multi-party system and eleven parties are a lot, even for a Dane, but not least for her, being used to the election being between the Democrats and the Republicans.
So, I explained, which is not as easy as one might think, because the Danish parties are close in their set of values and often overlap each other in their positions on individual topics.
“The red parties in Denmark are on the side of the blue bloc in the USA. But even the most conservative parties in Denmark, which is represented by a blue color, have some areas that are more socialist than the blue parties here in the US. The blue parties in Denmark are often more ´red´ than the blue party color of the American Democratic Party.”
My daughter asked questions about ideology and what it takes to get a mandate. “It’s a very complicated system,” she said, until it dawned on her that every vote cast counts—unlike presidential elections here.
When I heard the head of The Green Left (SF), Pia Olsen Dyhr, say that despite the differences in opinions, the representatives from other parties in Parliament (Folketing) are colleagues she likes and respects, I almost wanted to move back to my beautiful, democracy-loving, safe country of origin, Denmark.
“This is too exciting! I am amazed how quickly they count the votes,’ she said, while we watched the DR hosts try to fill out airtime while waiting for the final votes.
“Far fewer people live in Denmark. And the Danes are good at creating efficient systems and believing in the democratic process,” I replied.
The atmosphere I felt when I watched politicians from The Red/Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) bike ride through the streets of Copenhagen, the warmth I felt, when the cameras panned through various rooms in Parliament covered in confetti, showing Danish flags being waved, and nervous, excited looks glued to the latest election numbers on tv screens. I saw smiles, hugs, and groups of people spontaneously breaking out in song. That atmosphere, the USA could learn from.
Democracy is something to be celebrated. When I heard the head of The Green Left (SF) Pia Olsen Dyhr, say that despite the differences in opinions, the representatives from other parties in Parliament (Folketing) are colleagues she likes and respects, I almost wanted to move back to my beautiful, democracy-loving, safe country of origin, Denmark, where the rhetoric, even during an election campaign, is at a level where the politicians do not fear for their lives.
In that context, the political mood in America is starkly different. Many politicians talk to each other in such a disrespectful way you hardly want your kids to hear it. Many refuse to meet each other for debates. On the political arena and among the population, the atmosphere is so toxic that some fear a civil war.
Last week, a man broke into Speaker of the United States House of Representatives house, Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi was not at home. But her 82-year-old husband ended up with a fractured skull and injuries to his body. He is still recovering in the ER. The perpetrator has since stated that he wanted to smash Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps so that other politicians would see what was in store for them.
More than 70 per cent of Republicans in the United States believe that the last presidential election was “stolen” from them – a falsehood that has been refuted again and again by various recounts and by countless court verdicts.
In the US, we don’t get the election results as quickly as other countries do. We must wait and wait and wait because one party in particular, the Republican, want the ballots recounted over and over and because they bring the decision to the courts and drag out the results by appealing even when the margin is significant. By law, they have the right to do so. But when the tally is clear, one must ask whether there is a strategy behind what the republicans are doing.
By dragging out the final election results, citizens lose interest and trust in the system. And that is most likely exactly what the republicans want. In its extreme consequence, that is an eerie thought: if you can destroy faith in democracy and make people believe their vote holds no power, that democracy is too difficult, what then is the alternative? – indifference and acceptance of a totalitarian system brought in through the backdoor.
Democracy is hard. But that does not mean that citizens should turn away from voting and participating – because if we do, we can wave goodbye to the democracy America prides itself of on the global world stage. Maybe America should look to Denmark for showing the world how to respect democracy?
Tænk, hvis USA var lige så civiliseret, når det kommer til at afholde valg
Demokrati er svært, og USA kunne lære meget af Danmark. Det viste det danske valg, mens vi venter på det amerikanske midtvejsvalg.