Watch Kenya. What is happening right now in Kenya could very well be what happens in America in 2020. At the time of this posting two hours remain before the polls close in Kenya’s rerun national election. So far the turnout seems to be around 25%. (The turnout in the August 8 election which was annulled by the Supreme Court was 80%.)
There’s widespread violence in the west of the country and in parts of Nairobi’s slums. The official announcement of winners could take a week. Incumbents and opposition alike know what the outcome will be: the rerun election will affirm the results of the original election. So 2 out of 3 citizens are not voting.
Elections in Kenya are extremely expensive and much more taxing on the typical voter than in Europe or the U.S. The national expense has been made and few are happy with it. No reason to add more troubles to yourself by actually going to vote.
The outcome of Kenya’s election is preset because of tribal affiliations. I had written more hopefully in the last few years especially after talking with so many younger Kenyans. But it looks like it’s going to take another generation before tribal allegiances give way to ideas.
So whether the election is perfectly free and fair or horribly corrupt, the outcome will be same.
There is much more to garner from this than just the news in Kenya. If you as a voter feel that the “outcome” is preset, you believe no choice is possible. You believe that your views will not be reflected in the government overseeing you.
Outcome is not simply the person who wins this or that office. We know in America that our current system is dysfunctional. It no longer seems to matter which candidate wins: There’s been no progress in the lives of any individuals except the very powerful and rich who control government.
The underclasses in America have been sinking for 3-4 decades.
All that government does is recreate itself for the rich and powerful.
What’s the point in voting?
When a society reaches this stage civil disturbances grow. Watch Kenya. Opposition leaders start to organize outside the existing institutions. Democracy is seriously compromised and remains meaningful only within increasingly smaller geopolitical areas.
Kenya has in effect run the gamut of democracy. Whatever Kenya looks like in two or three weeks, it will certainly not be democratic.
It would be harder for America to end up the same way. We have a much longer history with democracy: there will be great reluctance to try anything else. Political allegiances actually seem to be somewhat in flux at the moment; they are not intransigently tribal as in Kenya, at least not yet. Our democracy might be saved.
But it all comes down to assuring not just that every citizen votes, but that every citizen can have a meaningful vote.
In that sense, America right now is no different than Kenya.