Practice Makes Perfect

Democracy, like Motherhood, is praised in the general and panned in the particular. The elements of a functioning  democracy are relatively simple to grasp and devilishly hard to manage. They include the expectation of certain and regular elections, the assurance of speaking one’s mind and the belief that polls are honestly managed. It can be argued that Egypt has had only one of these three elements, as elections occurred regularly.  However, the polls were indelicately rigged and the losers, for their trouble, sometimes received a stint in jail as a consolation prize.

The Egyptian revolution has changed that for the better. The elections are back, the polls are more modestly rigged and the losers are free to speak their minds in words either rational or rash. Yet the revolutionaries who made it all happen are very unsatisfied. They argue for boycotting the elections with a logic that will split the head of any athletic coach, that perfection can be achieved prior to practice.

To be fair to the revolutionaries, the final candidates are not inspiring. Together they barely gathered half the votes in the first round, but that is less their fault than the doing of the rules of the game. Both candidates seem to have no native tongue, and they confuse inspirational speeches with loud hectoring. One candidate, Dr. Mursi, represents the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization of  bien pensants that claims native credentials, but is in fact modeled heavily on the French Action Francaise. They do have some native touches, such as substituting an angry version of Islam for dyspeptic Catholicism and eschewing elegant goatees in favor of hirsute necks. But like their French cousins, their anti-cosmopolitan views lead them into dark corners of antisemitism, anti-Western liberalism, and for that extra native touch, anti-Copts. The other candidate, Ahmed Shafiq,  is rumored to be a favorite of the Military, having been once a serving general. He has made interesting promises, maybe even radical in the current Egyptian environment, such as removing some anti-private property laws affecting farmers and teaching the Bible in Arabic classes. He should not be confused with a classic liberal yet, but he is evolving from his initial posture of open shirt pugilism.  His campaign is intelligently managed, with an American style first perfected by Richard Nixon.

Those who made the sacrifices in 2011 may want to remember that practice makes perfect and the best way to have democracy is to behave like a democrat. Innovative ideas such as a “Presidential Council” made up of election losers will only make democracy an extraordinary measure rather than an ordinary reality.

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