Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address asserted that a new nation has been conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. It is based on this ideology conveyed in 1863 that tagging America a rainbow nation, that creates a home for all on the principles of equality, would be home. The varying races of people in the American nation breathed relieve, as their long anticipated freedom stared them in the face. The only necessary factor for survival in a Darwin’s realistic descriptive world is freedom. This freedom apparently becomes the exercise of reflections in creating a democratic world that would have as its root the people and their choices first before the choices of the rulers. It becomes inarguable that Lincoln must have sustainably defined democracy in favour of his Gettysburg’s assertion.
Therefore, principles of democracy must historically source from its incipient definitions clearly expressed in the ideas and ideologies that gave birth to the democratic American society hitherto, dating back to the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Hence, it becomes of no doubt that the American society operates with the concept of democracy as its bedrock and as such, principles that negate such stand must inevitably face vehement opposition. In order for the Lincoln thoughts and cause to be sustained in modern politics, it needed to be conveyed through political party ideology and handed over from generation to generation, thus becoming a base upon which the policies of the state would reflect the party manifesto that would be voted for by the electorates.
It is upon this exercise that the Democratic Party of the United States of America came to bear and was hitherto rooted in ideologies of individual liberty, social justice and the common good, with so much emphasis on the government reflecting the will and the welfare of the people. Therefore, the concept of liberalism against conservatism became the modus operandi and vivendi of the Democratic Party and its members. It is in light of the foregoing does this work seeks to unravel latent factors that inform recent state policies in the United States of America and how inherent positives should be observed sine-qua-non to stereotypic negatives largely voiced the world all over, which could be a lesson for Africa.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln as part of his Gettysburg address, he conclusively asserted that ‘…the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the surface of the earth’. This was extremely assertive as Lincoln never had in mind that there could be any other form of government greater than this very one and in that regard, he gave his all in defense of it, not just as a worthy cause but as a necessary tool for man’s survival in the face of any government. Furthermore, the fact that a substance has been posited never to perish implies that it is perishable and must have also had a time it came into being. Just as the axiom – ‘every end has a beginning’. In this sense, let us take a causal look into the historical conception of democracy for the world and have a firm grasp of its connotation as a guide to justify the acts of the present times, considered a victory for democracy.
Etymologically, the term democracy emanated from two Greek words – ‘demos’ and ‘kratia’. With the former standing for ‘people’ and the later, ‘power’. When both items are joined, it implies power residing with the people. The etymological stand of democracy is consequent upon the fact that Greece is its cradle villa cum originator. Democracy is apparently at home in Greece. The state of Greece in the BCs had an organized form of government, structured into polies. These polies are similar to the states in a country. In the then Greece, leading polies were basically two (Athens and Sparta). These both states constantly fought for supremacy either coldly or in full blown war (Peloponnesian War). One of the attributes of their greatness featured in the organization of their governments which had democracy as a core feature.
In Sparta, there was this belief that jettisoned privately owned wealth as an instrument to define class or presence in government which brings to bear the principles of democracy. Four main bodies had the political power of the Sparta state in possession and among all was the Ephors (representatives) seen as the most powerful, elected by the people on tenure basis and served as the executives of the Spartan government. They were responsible for determining state policies which must reflect the welfare of the electorates they represent and as well criticize their kings and send them on exile where necessary. It is on this ground that Aristotle attributed to them the most important key institution of the state. The Ephors were elected on egalitarian grounds and never on the basis of owned wealth. Hence, the people of Sparta should be commended for inventing a true representative democracy.
On the other hand, Athens has been largely seen as the inventors and birth place of democracy and particularly the direct form of democracy that gives all eligible citizens the platform and opportunity to contribute to governance. Democracy in Athens was conceived as a remedy to lingering strife between the rich minority and the poor majority, buoyed by the philosophical expertise of Solon. Solon entrusted with the responsibility of rebuilding Athens, restructured its governmental institutions in a manner that would largely support and be fair to the poor majority and at same time not totally clamping on all privileges of the rich minority. One of his rationales to achieve this was the introduction of the Ecclesia which served as a general assembly for eligible citizens to vote, pass laws and degrees and also listen to appeals. Noble birth that recycles an oligarchy was jettisoned in favour of productive wealth and Athenian citizenship. This further had to put a stop to any Athenian serving as a slave to another Athenian and a classless political assembly not founded on privately owned wealth. In perfecting the works of Solon, Cleisthenes government made reforms that sustained democratic principles which were captured in the words of Thucydides in explaining Athenian democracy to be:
‘Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences…The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life’
It is therefore paramount to understand that whosoever that claims to be a democrat must go back to its origin and wholly identify with its conceptualizations that maintain freedom in both government and ordinary life and takes into large consideration private differences of all people. This apparently makes liberalism and democracy both sides of same coin, with one not surviving in the absence of the other.
WHY AM I DEMOCRAT?
Whoever claims kindred to the postulation and assertion of Lincoln regarding the non-perishing of a government fostered by the people themselves must ask the above question and devoid of any form of bias, truthfully give answers to it. In fact, to be of any government that believes in democracy implies that the above test must have been passed. Upon the question being asked, let’s consider the underlying principles of democracy as cited by Aristotle in his work – ‘Politics’:
‘Now a fundamental principle of the democratic form of constitution is liberty – that is what is usually asserted, implying that only under this constitution do men participate in liberty, for they assert this as the aim of democracy. But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice…This then is one mark of liberty which all democrats set down as a principle of the constitution…’
To this end, it becomes obvious that true democrats must uphold principles of liberty and subject themselves to be governed by the people they govern, taking at every point the decision of the majority into maximum consideration, even if it is not consistent with their own bias. Liberty of the people is the objective of democracy according to Aristotelian principle of politics. Coming to terms with this truth confers upon a man the status of being a democrat. It is upon this that certain political parties upholding principles of democracy as its fundamental ideology must ensure that members adequately understand the connotations and implications of the democrat nomenclature, as not to misrepresent the concept when it should be applied.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF THE USA
There are several political affiliations all over the world that operates with the concept of democracy and liberalism as a fundamental ideology. Paramount among them all is the Democratic Party of the United States of America, founded in 1828 and apparently the world’s oldest political party still in existence. The party has reinvented itself at several times which at those times affected its ideologies. However, the Democratic Party of the United States that currently holds its presidency with a minority at its parliament fosters ideologies founded on the principles of liberalism, social progressivism, social justice and equality, economic justice and equality and a welfare state. Thus, these principle ideologies of the Democratic Party of the United States form its manifesto upon which government officials are being elected. In essence, the electorates would never vote you as a person but the ideologies of your party that were conveyed to them through your preached manifesto. Hence, it becomes impossible to be elected on the platform of your promised manifesto consistent with your party ideology and do otherwise or defect to another party whose manifesto was not what the people voted for.
In furtherance, the key principles of the Democratic party of the United States are all embedded in the assertions of liberalism and social liberalism. Liberalism refers to an ideology that seeks a balance between individual liberty, social justice and the common good while taking into cognizance the market economy and expansion of civil rights to citizens. Social liberalism opines that government should be involved in addressing issues such as poverty and access to education and health care. It is in this light that the current US government works round the clock to ensure that its ideologies voted for by the people are effectively defended through its policies and governmental interventions. The Obama health care bill; the customized education aided Apple laptops for American students; tax relief policy; unemployment insurance and among other social security policy for eligible American citizens and most recently the gay rights, all speak in favour of his government maintaining the ideologies of his political affinity, whose manifesto was voted for by the electorates. This apparently implies a civilized state whose leaders operate with cosmic conscience consequent upon their elections by enlightened electorates to justify their manifestos’ promises through state policies, acts and other forms of governmental interventions.
JUSTIFYING MY POSITION AS A DEMOCRAT
The administration of Barack Obama came on board in 2008 and was reelected in 2012 for 4year tenure respectively. In 2008 he asserted yet again his position as a democrat having served on same platform as a senator of the American parliament. He said:
‘…our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation – one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all’.
Having explained the concept of liberty through liberalism which is fundamental to every democrat, one would be tempted to confer on Obama the title of a true democrat as this was evident in his quoted speech above, which he lived to fulfill through liberty and people oriented policies initiated by his administration. The Obama’s administration must have ensured a thorough study of Cleisthenes and Aristotle’s politics consistent with the ideologies of the party he represents and pragmatically brought them to bear for the electorates to confirm the will and power of their votes. The central theme of this work centers on the recently approved gay rights in all of the 50 states of the USA. This has thus ensued controversies round the globe on the premises of both personal and collective beliefs. It is in the light of the foregoing does this work seeks to unravel the positives in the midst of trailing controversies regarding the approval of gay rights for citizens and people resident in the USA, as this should further be a lesson for African nations whose governments and citizens never cease to be reactionary.
IN DEFENCE OF THE TRUTH
I choose not to be religiously or traditionally indoctrinated in defense of the truth but to be fair and hearken to the conscience of the people I lead and hear their plight in favour of their long awaited justice prevaricated cause. This I do because I am a human surrounded by humans, who in majority, collectively feel a cause is justifiable enough to satisfy their common good. What do I then represent upon being voted by them for an ideology they know would satisfy their cause and cry justice alas, if I do not what I represent?
The above personal citation by me is a step in the defense of the truth that has refused to be heard and told. Truth is relative in most exceptional situations. What might be true to a particular subcultural group might be false for another. An average Christian of the Pentecostal or Catholic origin holds the truth that Jesus Christ died on the cross while the Jehovah Witness asserts its own truth that Jesus Christ died on the stake. Does it mean that the former or later holds a false belief in relation to the other? The fact is that the belief of both religious affinity forms the truth for their respective selves and claiming that any of them is false in the face of their believers becomes a slight on the integrity and dignity of their beliefs. Therefore, in defending the truth, the conscience of the people must be largely put into consideration while divinity is being allowed to exercise its jurisdictional authority in leading a final justification for truth, devoid of the meddling of mere men. What one represents and has sworn allegiance to in favour of a people forms a foundation and guide to a relative truth.
On the subject of this discourse, the Obama US led administration on 26th June, 2015 proclaimed the approval of same-sex marriage all over the 50 states of the United States of America. This move has brought about commendations and disapprovals from different communities of the world. He – Obama and the United States have received several labeling and praises regarding making the United States the 21st country all over the world to get gay marriages legalized. Most of the sanctions on the person of Obama and his newly initiated state policy come largely from Faith Based Organisations. Nonetheless, this article in defending the truth would take causal looks at this decision devoid of all forms of fallacies, especially against the person of the president of the United States.
GAYISM IN THE USA
The basic components that largely affect our world stem from information, technology and competition, with information taking the lead. The human mind is a special organ for a person and the society which he belongs. This is because it is the site that defines world view and perception. By virtue of the dynamism of the society and the humans that live in it, evolution and social change become inevitable. In essence, knowledge becomes largely affected, as what might be considered knowledge in the 20th century could become obsolete and no knowledge in the 21st century.
Marriage has been considered as a union of a man and a woman and with further need for procreation, as supported by the American Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) 1996. In this vein, a great preponderant of the American population were very much in support of the DOMA marriage definition as just few of them had made cries and cases for same sex marriage which statistically should be below 30% as of the 20th century. Those who made cases at legal suits lost so well, as vivid in the 1971 case of Baker vs Nelson at Minnesota and other subsequent.
At a point, American homes became plagued with numerous issues posing increasing threats to marriages and families, as this led to rising cases of divorce, abandonment and neglect of children, increase in foster parenting and institutionalized care for children and among others. The new trend of homes in the American society, informed a paradigm shift in ideas regarding the need to love and be loved. You could imagine a lady who goes to a fellow lady to share the burdens of her home in tears and on the long run gets cuddled by the hearing lady in both sympathy and empathy. It apparently becomes inarguable that the chemistry for love forms a synergy for both partners who would in turn feel their innate love needs being satisfied. This could also apply to the men. Hence, rationale for making this new mode of satisfaction legally acceptable becomes the order of the day. This justifies the axiom that necessity is the mother of invention. To this end, suffice here that paramount to the idea of same sex marriage stems from the home breaks largely witnessed in the American society, as things fell apart with the centre not being able to hold.
In furtherance, the early years of the millennium gave tremendous rise to calls and cases for the legalization of same sex marriage in the USA, with the state of Massachusetts being the first to adhere on 17th May, 2004. This development in Massachusetts was occasioned by the Federalism of the USA that gives more powers to states to defining the status of citizens, including their marriage status. The case of Massachusetts gave the possibility of the legalization of same sex marriage all over the USA, as up to 38 states from 2004 – 2015 gave legality to gay marriage, through court orders, legislative and executive decisions and also referendums as the case may be. One of the cases that gained credible attention regarding gay marriage was the United States vs Windsor, which was won in favour of Windsor and reclaiming her real estate left by her dead spouse, Clara Thea Spyer. The victory of Edith Windsor led the US through its supreme court to nullify the position of its judicial sixth circuit, in invalidating bans on same sex marriages in states like Idaho, Alaska, and Nevada and among others.
Furthermore, the Federal Marriage Ammendment of 2006 that prohibited states from recognizing same sex marriages approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, gained backing by Republicans, among whose voice was Sarah Palin who in 2008 negated same sex marriage phenomenon. Mrs. Palin had all rights to negate the issue, as the political ideologies of Republicans are not consistent with the demands of liberalism and social progressivism. Thus, they are to be held at high esteem for not letting go of their political manifesto cum ideologies for political power in governance. Their negations over same sex marriage was short-lived by the Democratic elect president in Barack Obama, who in consistency with the ideologies of his political affinity first voiced his support for same sex marriage on 9th May, 2012 in the capacity of a president and a party leader that inevitably must be the chief custodian of the fundamental beliefs of his political party affinity.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came from January 16th, 2015 when the US Supreme court granted hearing to four cases regarding same sex marriage, among which was the victorious 5 – 4 Obergefell vs Hodges case. James Obergefell had his gay spouse, John Arthur, who was terminally ill and later died. Upon relocating to their state of nativity (Ohio) from Maryland where they got married in 2013, it was said that Ohio had no room for gay couple since the state has not yet joined in the trend of legalization of same sex marriage. This led Obergefell to fight for his right which he won and paved way for the legalization of gay marriage all over 50 states of the United States through judicial precedence, parliamentary act and executive support. This was predicated upon the fact that fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same sex couples by both the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. At this juncture, suffice the assertion that the highest morality governing a state must be constitutional driven and in the spate of conflicts the supremacy of the constitution takes precedence. Consequent upon this is the feature of a modern state that ensures strict adherence to democracy through the constitution of the state justified by the people.
In modern democratic states, the right to vote is not only exercised in the cause of electing governmental officials. It is exercised in maximally contributing to governance through participating in decision making process, which is founded on the principle of self-determination, called a referendum. It is here we can boldly say that the votes of a people form their powers and is wholly consistent with the Lincoln’s definition of democracy. Polls have been ongoing in the American society organized by different governmental institutions on the subject of same sex marriage. These polls started tilting positive from the millennia years. The most recent one was organized by CNN on February 19, 2015, which showed that 63% of Americans were in support of same sex marriage and another was organized after the victorious Obergefell’s case that showed that 59% of the American population held the decision as a rightful one. Thus, should we say that America is really a republic? Where power resides with the public? Where the will of the people comes first before that of the rulers? Should this then be true democracy?
If there are people who had faced marginalization, I think the blacks in the United States should be counted among such. Barack Obama as a Negro in the USA must have partook in the share of marginalization and discrimination melted on the black race, which must have built that doggedness in him that should through all measures jettison traces of discrimination. It might be that his history must have occasioned his affinity with the Democrat that toll lines of ensuring a fair dispensation of social justice and equity for all. This is vivid in his statement made on 21st January, 2013:
‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well’
Several religious organisations have largely faulted Obama’s cause on same sex marriage, but it should be known that he at a time on the grounds of religion refused to concede to gayism as vivid in his 2004 statement:
‘I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of lot voters, have a religious connotation’
His acknowledgement of the religious connotation of marriage was a personal bias which he had to put away having been elected on the platform of the Democratic Party to the US presidency in favour of the manifesto that got him to office and the fundamental party ideologies which he represents.
Obama’s believe in marriage was asserted in 2008, the year he was elected, when he opined that ‘I believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman…’ Thus, his newly charted cause today made it clear that no personal belief of a leader is greater than the belief of the majority of the people in any society that claims to be democratic. This apparently led to the White House being painted in rainbow colour on 26th June, 2015 and a testimony of guided political ideologies governing the policies of a state and its framework. It becomes a vivid truth that Barack Obama in person did not favour the legalization gay marriage but his political affinity with the US Democratic Party which was voted for by the electorates, did. He stood true not to betray his party ideologies, manifesto and the people who voted same into power.
For the records, Barack Obama did not only assert his party beliefs just on the legalization of same sex marriage but on equally other aspects of the society needing democratic justice. To mention but few include the 100million dollar education initiative, fully implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Social Security Policies, clamping on terrorists that claimed the lives of many Americans and involvement in world terrorism cases and among others. Being a Democrat goes beyond its today’s definition, for it is a task that demands going back to where, how and why it started.
The greatness of Africa cannot be overemphasized as it is lucid in the avalanche of mineral and human resources it possesses. Yet, its development is not commensurate to possessed resources which have led scholars to identify the situation as a case of resource curse. I choose not to align myself with the belief that Africa has been destined to be behind. I only want to belief in the fact the question with Africa is the question of leadership. As rightly opined by Late Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe:
‘the Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership’.
Same it is with Nigeria, same it is for an avalanche of African countries. True leadership demands a total subjugation of self and a consuming love for ones people founded on the principles of true democracy. To this end, the Obama’s gayism becomes a leading example for the political atmosphere of the African society not negating the highly revered culture of Africans as a whole. Someone defined civilization as culture plus cosmic conscience. Thus, even as the world has compressed into a global village with cultural relativism and accumulation being the order of the day, it is important that the culture of a people never gets eroded for any reason. This is particular to the African society where its cultural heritage has formed a legacy for them. Learning from Obama’s cause, does not imply gay rights approval for the African society except otherwise. Latent factors coined from the America’s same sex marriage legalization and its benefits for Africa include:
- The family has been defined as the smallest basic unit of the society and is apparently the bedrock of every community or nation. Most issues plaguing nations started from missing the point with the family. If the American society had made earlier efforts to keep the family protected, its shift to same sex marriage would have been in dreams. African societies must ensure that measures through governmental, media, social and religious structures are provided to cater for the needs of the family, in order to circumvent threats that could throw our family systems into jeopardy and ill fate. To that end, I suggest that emphasis should be made on social care and social security through professionals such as social workers, psychologists and the clergy. Approaches to keeping our family system intact must follow an eclectic methodology involving several disciplines in the scene, buoyed by legislative and executive decisions, as well as culturally rooted judicial intervention.
- In modern democratic societies, citizens do not only exercise their franchise in choosing leaders but in also participating in policy decision making for the state. This they do by themselves not through representatives, as observable in declared polls that reflected the choices of American citizens, regarding same sex marriage. This idea seeks a compromise for both representative and direct democracy and establishes a government by the people, of the people and for the people. African societies should understand the need for referendums and plebiscites as measures through which citizens can be adequately integrated into governance. The concept of self-determination enshrined in the UDHR supports this process as an approach to make governance reciprocating. The will of the leaders should be subject to the will of the people. Thus, citizens must have an inalienable right to be literally educated in the affairs of their nation, as to inform rational choices when they get to the polls in the cause of referendums. If this is done with high political dexterity, it would never conflict exclusive interests needing professional expertise.
- Political parties in Africa should have grounded political and philosophical ideologies which they represent. Our politicians in Africa must be well schooled to understand and consequently communicate the ideologies they represent to the masses. These ideologies should form their manifestos which would be spelt out during campaigns, with the masses being allowed the leverage of reconciling their manifestos with the state of their countries at that point in time. By so doing, governmental officials would be elected on the basis of their ideologies and not on the sense of their persons, although that cannot totally be ruled out. The present happenings in the USA reflect the political ideologies of the Democratic Party and in turn, the party representatives have stayed true to the manifestos and party fundamental beliefs that got them into office. This must be a borrowed leaf that should be utilized in African countries, as this will enable us break into the ranks of modern states and would help the masses in holding their leaders responsible in the case of not effectively delivering party ideologies cum manifesto, while in office. More so, this would build integrity into our political system as politicians would give no excuse for defecting to other political affinity, save to conflict of interests between state policies and party objectives, as it was in the case of Jimmy Carter and Condoleezza Rice. This would not limit freedom of thought but would make our political thoughts more constructive.
- Man is a religious being, and could most times utilize it as opium. In the event of same sex marriage in the USA, it is important to note that religious affiliations stood against it. Mr. Obama acknowledged the religious connotation that has characterized marriage overtime but had to bury his bias in the will of the people. The acts of people could be considered wrong but that should not lead to the condemnation of the actor(s). This has practically led to the increasing religious crises faced by most African countries, stemming from the fact that several religions would always wish to gain supremacy over other religions. In a true democratic society, religious practices are guided through rationality and the fact of tolerance. The question of right or wrong should be left to the conscience of men, while varying religious practices should not seize efforts in stimulating the conscience through raising the consciousness of men to the realization of “hurt” to man - himself and the fellows in his environs. Religion should be a tool for nation building; refuge for the soul of men and not otherwise.
- For the constitution of a people to hold sway in any democratic society, it must be people oriented and constantly seek to reflect the will and dynamisms of the people in less ambiguous wordings. African countries must pay heed to this and jettison the acts of writing the constitution at the comfort of their military enterprises, which they further impose on the people. By so doing, the constitution becomes an instrument of protection for the will of the elites and not the will of the people which it seeks to govern. The legalization of same sex marriage in the USA gained more grounds through a people oriented constitution, clearly spelt out in less ambiguous wordings.
Having causally looked into the same sex marriage legalization in the USA and its road map for Africa, it becomes pertinent that we understand that the essence of our existence is practically for the existence of another. Therefore, in a world of tolerance, social justice, liberalism and progressivism, democracy is blessed. True democracy dates back to its conception and its practice must follow in that regard. Anyone who identifies with its virtue must live to the expectation of its dictates obtainable in the principles of a republic, where power resides with the public. True politics is in the defense of the beliefs of your political affinity and integrating it into state policy, consistent with the virtues of democracy that is the surname of all modern states. The American society and the US Democratic Party have taken the lead yet again. African countries must not necessarily toll in same thrust of their cause but must learn from their methodologies.