I will be in Nairobi for its next election on August 8. According to the popular global business group, Quartz, Kenya’s is one of four elections this year that will determine world-wide the direction of democracy.
Worldwide? How on earth will Kenya’s election effect US business, much less its own political fabric?
Because the differences that existed all but ten years ago between a citizen in a developed country and one in a developing one have been mostly bridged. While the scale of the issues is massively different, the issues are all the same.
Whether it is Kenya, France, the Philippines or the U.S. democratic societies share identical issues and everywhere in the world, today, the overriding ones are income inequality, health care and education.
In non-full employment countries like Kenya and the Philippines, jobs and the economy also clutter the chalice. But it is remarkable how even in these less developed societies “jobs” no longer provides the energy that drives people to the polls. This despite politicians crying otherwise, stupidly hopeful they can distract the electorate from the real issues.
But let me step out on limb. I think there’s something even more important than … issues.
What? How can “something” energize elections that isn’t contextual? Did I ask that question correctly. Might Trump be the answer?
In Kenya, the election remains the same two-horse race that’s it’s been since … well, independence.
At independence it was Odinga Oginga against Jomo Kenyatta. This year it’s Odinga’s son, Raila, against Jomo’s son, Uhuru. Bush verses Clinton. Trudeau. The world’s democracies are stuck.
Different and quite different explanations apply to each nation separately. In Kenya it’s tribal. In the U.S. it’s institutionalized politics. In Canada it’s federalism.
What voters who are feeling increasingly powerless want is to not be powerless. The only thing they can do is to upset the apple cart.
There are a lot of ways to upset the apple cart. When things are going good, you upend the do-gooders: Dems destroyed by the GOP. When nobody seems to be listening, get rid of nobody and put a stranger in place as in France. When everything seems alright but nobody’s paying attention, replace Canadian thinkers with a poster boy.
In Kenya, where things have been going extremely well, I’m expecting a change, just because change is all the voters can do, anymore.
Stick a wheel on the side of the building, and people coming along will turn it. Give someone a new remote for their entertainment devices, and they’ll push every darn button. Put a slot machine in a cathedral and the Cardinal is sure to use it.
We just want something to happen. We just want something new.
This could revitalize democracy. Or it could destroy it. Watch Kenya. I’ll be there on election day.