Wednesday, October 5th | 10 Tishri 5783

December 21, 2011 8:58 pm

Newt Gingrich – Democracy’s Blessing or Curse?

avatar by Kevin Bermeister

Newt Gingrich. Photo: Gage Skidmore

In one fell swoop Newt Gingrich focused the world’s attention on all of the ignorance that has plagued Israel through more than 30 years of rhetoric and innuendo: a rhetoric cultivated by Israel’s opponents and nurtured by those complacent enough to accept it as gospel. Beginning as early as the establishment of the State of Israel and gaining steam through the progression of politicians that sponsored the Oslo Accords, this malaise has grown unchecked, but Newt fixed that.

Unsettling as it may be, in the arena of global policymaking, it is general practice for political leaders from one administration to spin webs of misinformation and half-truths in order to elicit compliance from the politicians of other nations. Instead of leading towards sound policy and even-handed legislation, this political manipulation simply promotes confusion and ignorance. This practice of spreading misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric regularly happens when, for example, the principal sponsors of important events promote their private views by encouraging less scrupulous politicians to espouse their personal agendas. The corrupting influence of financial incentives exists as something of a permanent virus contaminating democracies that otherwise work quite well. The story is an old one in which politicians, who often begin with the best of intentions seeking tirelessly to achieve their various moral objectives, ultimately find themselves in compromising situations, capitulating to the views of their supporters, political advisers, or even adversaries.

When it comes to spewing prejudicial views against Israel, there are all too many examples of this disturbing practice. Take, for instance, the much maligned remarks uttered last month by the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman. Speaking at a conference on anti-Semitism sponsored by the European Jewish Union in Brussels, Gutman insisted that recent European anti-Semitism was fueled by Israel’s delaying negotiations for a Palestinian state. While Gutman was widely castigated for his comments, the loathsome practice of blaming Israel for the hatred lobbed at her is all too common.

Such mindless speech may just be a case in point but then the same must be said for the words delivered by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at this year’s Saban conference. Clinton openly expressed her concern for the future of Israel’s domestic democracy claiming that legislation introduced in the Knesset against radical left-wing NGOs endangered the process of democracy. Her comments rang out much to the chagrin of Israel’s die-hard politicians who live by that democracy each day.

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Such bombastic antics make me think of Abraham Lincoln’s famous words: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” If, as a politician, you can fool all of the people some of the time, would you? Perhaps that’s what politicians must do to survive in the world of politics; but if that’s the case, then fooling some of the people all of the time would probably keep you in politics longer. Hmmm… food for thought?

The fickle nature of politicians is so plainly reflected in these words, and that alone should be enough to set alarms buzzing. However, we live in a jaded world where constituents who cling to the belief that their votes are the driving force behind democracy’s vibrancy swallow the deceitful verbosity unprincipled politicians throw at them.

How foolish to endorse anti-Semitism as being fueled by political action, as Ambassador Gutman did, or, worse yet, the paradox of insisting that the passage of a law in a democratically elected government is an affront to the very democracy that gives rise to that law as Secretary Clinton posited. Absurd! Such haranguing is fueled by ignorance and, in turn, encourages people who support even more ignorant politicians too busy spouting their own invectives to be deterred by facts.

I was in the midst of composing this article when, unrelated to my writing, I was asked to describe what a blessing is and how it relates to free choice. At first I did not connect this seemingly tangential question to my article, but now I find myself weaving my understanding into the very concept of free choice inherent in a democracy.

The will and insight that motivate society to modify its course must be understood by those disciplined push/pull politicians tasked with navigating the political fog. A blessing causes a positive change to the essential self when bestowed by a selfless agent, notwithstanding our limitation to perceive this “magical” process, we all know individuals that may be considered blessed who deliver successful actions and outcomes.

Good leaders are distinguished , because their insight leads them to achieve goals that reflect their accurate comprehension of it. The “magic” is in their unshakable bond in the belief that motivates their lifelong careers to bring changes to improve society’s fabric. On the flip side, politicians who focus on the struggle with political onslaught or challenges to their personal lives often make compromises that ultimately characterize their infamous or uneventful careers.

Democracy is the blessing of free choice bestowed on society, an antidote to the political virus. When less scrupulous politicians are corrupted by the influence of financial incentives, society is at risk of infection cured only by constituents exercising free choice. Indeed, democratic or even theocratic societies are strengthened by the courage of leaders committed to their unwavering conviction not to be influenced by ignorance and inflammatory rhetoric or those who would attempt to fool all of the people all the time.

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