DEMOCRACY, IF YOU...

DEMOCRACY, IF YOU LIKE IT. I don't quite know what Jackson Diehl is trying to say about Ukraine here, but his column seemed to me to partake freely of various unfortunate but all-too-common presuppositions. As you'll recall, back in 2004 Viktor Yanukovich was Ukraine's ruling party's candidate for president. He lost to Viktor Yushchenko, but Yanukovich tried to steal the election through fraud. Then came the "Orange Revolution" and Yanukovich was forced to back down and let Yuschenko take office. Between then and now, a parliamentary election and a breakdown between Yuschenko and some of his political allies has created a situation where it now looks like Yanukovich will become prime minister in coalition with a third political party.

Describing that situation as a "setback" or "crisis" for Ukrainian democracy as opposed to for Yuschenko personally is a silly error. A democracy requires multiple political parties. Yanukovich's electoral victory was based on fraud, but much of his support was real. A political system that permanently excluded him, his party, and his supporters from power wouldn't be much of a democracy at all. And it's worth noting that this happened all over Central Europe in the mid-1990s already. Communist regimes were overthrown and replaced with opposition governments. Eventually, those governments became unpopular and ex-Communist parties regained power. That, however, wasn't the end of Central European democracy -- it was democracy in action. The victors of the 1989-91 movements ceded power peacefully to their rivals and life went on.

The real lesson here is that while it's probably true that it's good for the United States to see democracy spread, one shouldn't expect this to work at a great level of detail. Democracy isn't going to ensure that politicians we don't like never come to power, or that countries everywhere will want to align themselves with America's geopolitical goals.

--Matthew Yglesias

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