All That’s Wrong With Democracy:
Roger Cohen Gets It Right!
By Shlomo Maital
Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, is a fierce critic of my country Israel – sometimes deservedly, sometimes excessively. But lately he’s been a fierce critic of U.S. President Obama, and this time, it’s richly deserved. In today’s New York Times, he tears a strip off Obama for his weak wishy-washy speech in Europe on how to stand up to Russia. The problem is, Cohen says, that Western democracies are “failing to deliver”, while despots like Putin actually have been performing rather well.
The proof? Soaring unemployment in Europe (3 m. unemployed in France, for instance), rising fascist right-wing parties (Marine LePen and the Front Nationale did well in France’s municipal elections last Sunday), European integration is stalled and Europe is internally divided and at odds, the EU is overly bureaucratic and undemocratic; income disparities in Europe and the U.S. are huge and growing; there is “spreading middle-class dystopia”; money has skewed fairness on both sides of the Atlantic, corrupting democracy. Scorched earth Republicans devote their politics to obstruction. “A CEO can earn $80 m. for a few weeks of work while incomes for most Americans are stagnant.” Many young people have lost the sense of possibility and hope.
Concludes Cohen: “Unless Western societies find a way to shake their moroseness, level the playing field and rediscover [equality], they are going to have a hard time winning the contest of ideas (against the despots)”.
“Now is not a time for bluster,” intoned Obama. And that is precisely what he provided in his speech – empty words. Saudi Arabia has given up on the U.S. Israel may soon have to do the same. And Vladimir Putin is laughing up his sleeve.
A full century ago, Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, said that you can’t have both democracy and great concentrated wealth. Israel just passed a law to try to mitigate that concentration. Before the U.S. and Europe can confront Russia, they need to look in the mirror and confront their own problems.