Donald Trump supporters are staging protests in the streets. Accusations of irregularities in ballot counting are abounding. Think back to four years ago, following the 2016 US presidential election. Hilary Clinton supporters also demonstrated in the streets following her loss in the election. There were clashes with the police.
Thai traditionalists are watching with glee, pointing fingers, and exclaiming, “See? That’s democracy. It doesn’t work.”
But no matter the trickeries, the low-down-dirty tactics that may exist in the contest between Joe Biden and Donal Trump. No matter the legal wranglings, the protests, and all the whinings from both sides, two things Thailand should learn from the US presidential election:
1. No mob physically obstructed the ballot casting, while the police stood idly by in collusion.
2. No army rode in for a military coup.
One may say many terrible things about America and the state of American politics and society, but one thing is certain, the game is played within the democratic framework. There are checks and balances.
Hence, through incredible and terrible presidents, the system balances itself and sustains itself through generations.
Meanwhile, in Thailand.
We look over our shoulder for another military coup. We keep glancing nervously at the talks that the king should appoint a national government.
We scratch our heads exasperatedly at the Election Commission that seems to hate everything about a democratic election, to the point that they ban MPs and ministers from clicking “like” or “share” on social media posts by candidates in the upcoming local elections.
Thailand is a mess because we adhere to no rule of law. The rulers use their power arbitrarily.
We don’t cheat within a system. We create a system that cheats.
We defend the indefensible with flawed arguments.
Argument: “Look at the problems in America. Do you want democracy like that?”
Reply: “Well, why just look at America? Why not look at Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, etc. Or, look closer to home, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan?”
Argument: “What’s wrong with a dictatorship? Look at Singapore.”
Reply: “Do you think Uncle Tuu is Lee Kuan Yew? Seriously?”
Watch the recent debates between Royalists and Ratsadons.
Pareena Kraikup versus Pasarawalee “Mind” Thanakijwibulpol.
Paiboon Nititawan versus Nantapong “Goog” Panmas.
Sira Janejaka versus Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree.
Haruethai “Au” Muangboonsri versus Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpatararaksa.
People widely complain about these debates, saying they are unconstructive, and people like Pareena, Paiboon, Sira, and Haruethai should not be given media space.
Firstly, everyone can have a media space. Freedom of speech is freedom for all, even the frothing at the mouth fanatics with no logical grasp.
Censoring people because they say words that “offense or hurt our feelings,” or that we consider “stupid,” is in the same spirit of Article 112, the lese majeste law.
Censorship from the right or the left is the same thing, tyranny over the freedom of speech.
Secondly, these debates perfectly capture the essence of Thailand’s political stalemate, where one side tries to offer a rational conversation while the other spew irrational hatred and nonsensical venom.
For the casualists out there, the so-called silent majority, these debates should persuade a few about what represents Royalists and what represents Ratsadons.
I know a few casualists whose eyes are opened by these debates. Thailand has witnessed the difference in intellectual capacity and common decency between Royalists and Ratsadons, not once, but four times, on national TV.
These casualists may or may not join Ratsadon at the protests. Still, at the very least, these demonstrations of emotional tirades by the intellectually challenged versus rational dialogues would play a role in the voting decision when the next election comes around.
An election, like in the US and elsewhere. Not a military coup, like Thailand in the past.