Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people attempt to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP
During his address on the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Riots, US President Joe Biden criticized his predecessor Donald Trump and his supporters for attacking US democracy. Meanwhile, Biden has once again gone out of his way to champion American-style democracy. At a time when American-style democracy is increasingly becoming a model of âbad democracy,â why do some American political elites still cling to the procedural and formal legitimacy of Western democracy?
In a sense, procedural democracy and the dogged knowledge of its “justice” are the notions and systems that evolved from classical democracy after the rise of modern industrial society.
One of the main sources was the political rationalism once considered to represent advances. The arrogance of such a political concept makes it difficult for people living in the West to impartially justify the lifestyles and values ââof other ethnic groups and races. Instead, they tend to position all systems that do not meet Western criteria as the opposite of “democracy” – the so-called authoritarian.
A second source is modern procedural law with significant features of formalism. Based on the âdue processâ, the procedural law stemming from the Western tradition makes the efficiency of the advancement of legal proceedings the supreme principle. It has artificially created a political and legal space in which, according to the principle of the presumption of innocence, anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent as long as flaws are found in a series of procedures such as investigation, examination and prosecution, and trial, even if the accused has been found guilty as a matter of fact.
However, it is the plaintiff who is actually injured and violated by the justice of procedural law.
From this perspective, the justice system in modern Western countries spends a lot of taxpayers’ money to maintain “decency” and protect the “human rights” of criminals, but often ignores victims. Western democracy continues to take the upper hand morally under the banner of “procedural justice”, advocating ideas such as “one person, one vote”. However, it actually has to deal with the growing deterioration of democracy and the resulting political, economic and social problems. This is also linked to the West’s obsession with the rule of law only through procedure.
A third source is the natural form of modern civilization that revolves around the capital. In the post-Cold War era, the hegemony of transnational monopoly capital is exemplified by the uncontrolled expansion and growth of a market economy based on stock and money market hegemony.
This echoes the concepts and models of the rule of law in Western democracies, particularly in the United States. The western democratic system is notorious for creating âconsentâ. But when it comes to surveying people’s opinions and gaining their consent using statistical methods, the complexity and variety of facts often turn into data. Based on these indicators, quantitative models are constructed, and after several rounds of conditioning, âpolitical truthsâ that many Western elites believe in are created.
Many American pollsters, even the US Congress, and some Western countries have been preparing so-called human rights reports since the Cold War era. “Public opinion” in the political market is similar to toxic bonds in the US stock market that are carefully packaged and sold to the world. In a sense, it is the irrational belief and even obsession with numbers and quantification that fuels the maneuvers of some Western politicians who temporarily preoccupy their constituents and use any means possible to get attention.
Therefore, when we criticize Western-style democracy, we need to look deeply into the connotation of its model and understand the limitations of its theoretical roots and ways of thinking.
For a long time, very abstract numbers, such as polls and demographics, have been used to govern, tame and even mislead voters. Today, with the advent of a new technological revolution, the information gap traditionally created to shape âconsentâ is being bridged. Thus, the days when Western politicians could shape global âpublic opinionâ using statistics or quantitative models are fading.
It will be exposed even further that Western-style democracy is gaining strength and making itself known.
The author is an associate professor at the School of Marxism at Harbin Institute of Technology in Shenzhen. [email protected]