Democracy is widely viewed as a fraud. There is a prevalent perception that Russian's politics have been 'privatized' and are controlled by powerful clans. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a 2003 survey said that democracy is a facade for a government controlled by rich and powerful cliques. Only 22 percent expressed a preference for democracy, whereas 53 percent positively disliked it.Pipes gives some insightful reasons related to Russian history and culture why this may be true (if Moscow-based polling companies can be free of Putin's control). But for our part, perhaps this is also because many of us portray our form of government in a simplistic way that seems to ignore realities that Russians perceive more readily. For example, the very fact that we call our form of government a "democracy" rather than a republic seems like it ignores the fact that the people don't directly run the government--our representatives do.
Political theorists since Plato have noted a natural tendency to slide toward democracy and majority tyranny. We exhibit it ourselves in many ways: in our use of the word "democracy" over "republic", in our changing the Constitution to allow the popular election of senators, in the obsolescence of the electoral college, and in the popular victory of the concept that representatives must execute constituents' will over the complementary notion that they also serve as experts when the common man cannot, and therefore we elect representatives to use their best judgment to serve both local and national good (I'd cite Edmund Burke and George Washington here if I weren't sitting at a Starbucks).
It may be more relevant to say that we have an open society. Government for Aristotle was simply how a society is constituted and organizes and governs itself. And there is a complex interplay of societal movers that the term "government" doesn't capture--lawmakers to be sure, but also businesses, entertainers, scholars, and the institutions of culture such as churches, schools, the media, and anyone with proficiency in communication/propaganda skills, overt or covert. And as movers of society, they also influence the government of that society. While it is an American innovation to be able to govern in a more open way than the world was used to in the 18th century, it is a complementary American failing to forget that the government of a society occurs in more than simply the visible structures, but through all the open, subtle, and hidden influences listed above. Yet it is these influences that other cultures are better at dealing with since they are NOT living the American political experiment. So we won't be able to promote democracy if authoritarians think we are ignorant of these layers of society. We will have to make our defense/explanation of democracy a bit more richer and nuanced.
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Pipes makes another point that pro-democracy apologists should note:
When asked to choose between "freedom" and "order", 88 percent of respondents in Voronezh Province expressed preference for order, seemingly unaware that the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive and that in Western democracies they reinforce each other. Only 11 percent said they would be unwilling to surrender their freedoms of speech, press, or movement in exchange for stability.First, note Pipes' assertion that in Western societies, freedom and order reinforce each other. How do they do this? The answer is in the very next sentence: surrendering the practice of speech and movement in order to create stability. The fact is, we do this ourselves, but on a personal basis. Members of western societies must learn to make personal choices to use their freedom in a way that is conducive to stability in their own lives, and that creates stability in society and government.
In other words, we must learn to be virtuous. Our governments do not require virtue legally, yet virtue is required (necessary) for our form of society, even if that society is unconscious of that need. The value of "democracy" (in the loose sense we usually give it) is that it does tie together freedom and stability--and virtue. The luxury of being able to be personally immoral yet count on a stable government is less possible in democracies in the long run: the fate of the people and the state are tied together. If they would have stability, they must have freedom, and they must use it virtuously. If freedom is not virtuous, it is not stable; but if stability is not free, it is not virtuous. All three are required, and all rise or fall together.