The Silver Anniversary of Argentina's Democracy

The age of Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II are rightly connected with the bloodless defeat of the Soviet evil empire.  But those magnificent defenders of human liberty did not look just at the Iron Curtain when planning the liberation of the human soul:  They looked at all mankind.  Reagan and Thatcher worked hard to free their citizens from the tyranny of too much government.  Pope John Paul II worked hard to free Catholics from the tyranny of excessive obsession with stuff. 

Under President Reagan, America moved back toward freedom.  Under Prime Minister Thatcher, Britain moved back toward markets and ordered liberty.  Under Pope John Paul II, Catholicism moved back toward a spiritually meaningful purpose to live that encompassed all mankind.  Twenty-five years ago, this December 10th, Argentina ended a long period of military rule, government by dictators like Juan Peron, and moved into the community of democracies.

The resolution of Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands War -- a grittiness which the generals of Argentina did not think soft European democrats could muster -- produced a revolution in Argentine government.  Democracy returned, and it has never left.  Standing back with an historian's eye, the period from 1978 to 2000 has been a remarkable revolution in the political affairs of the Hispanic world.

It was once assumed that nations like Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and the Philippines were incapable of self-government.  The dream of Bolivar and San Martin to recreate in South America what the United States was in North America seemed, fatally, to have failed.  The PRI in Mexico, for example, had never lost a presidential election until Vicente Fox.  Franco, dictator of Spain for thirty-six years, was anathema to modern liberals.  Argentina and Brazil were depressing rotations of democracy and junta.  Were Latin people immune to democracy? Not at all.

When Franco died, Spain evolved quickly into a constitutional democracy with democracy and freedom.  His hand-picked king, Juan Carlos, guided Spain into a free and peaceful democracy.  When Fox became President of Mexico, he ended seventy years of one-party rule -- and he did so peacefully and effectively:  President Calderon is also a member of PAN, the rightist party of opposition, and his party has significant strength in the Mexican Congress.

And when democrats came back to power in Argentina -- a nation that like Cuba once had a higher standard of living and education than France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland or Austria -- they came and stayed.  Argentina, which was once, in many ways, the second most affluent and cultured nation in the Western Hemisphere, returned to the fold of civilized, self-governing nations.

Winston Churchill correctly observed that democracy is the worst form of government in the world, except for all the rest.  The current President of Argentina is Cristina Kirschner, Argentina's own Hillary Clinton, whose husband, Nestor Kirschner, was president before her.  Rumors abound that the thuggish Hugo Chavez helped finance her campaign.  She adheres to the principles of the Justicialist Party, the odd bastard of Juan Peron which was able, simultaneously, to:  (1) Declare Mussolini in 1945, after allies had overrun Nazi concentration camps, the "greatest statesman of this century," (2) Condemn American imperialism in harsh terms and announce neutrality -- the "third way" -- during the Cold War, (3) Have Evita give the Fascist salute to Franco in Spain, during the 1950s, declaring that she was "giddy with joy" at being near the Caudillo; (4) Enter into close political relationships not only with Soviet Russia but Maoist China; (5) Hide Nazi war criminals and, moreover, supporting anti-Semitic riots In Buenos Aries after V.E. Day; (6) Support the Fascist-worshipper, Fidel Castro, when he ended the "reign" of Batista, a man who had generally received the unqualified support of the Cuban Communist Party; and (7) Always hated America, Israel, Jews, and Catholicism.

Like the socialist government of Spain, and the pseudo-conservative Mexican government of Fox and Calderon, the democratically elected government of Argentina seems indifferent to the political values we cherish; chummy with the totalitarian Leftists we abhor, and quiet about such blessings as liberty and transcendent moral values.   In short, the winners in democratic elections are often lousy creeps. So what is the difference?  Isn't one creepy governor about the same as another? 

No.  We buy into Leftist palaver when we assume that the mendacious poof who wins democratic elections has some mystical merit.  The only merit is that he (or she) received power from a rough majority of the governed.  But that is enough.  Uncertainty of power, much less than the source of power, is the great equalizer.  The chance of losing an election makes all participants in democracy interested in free speech.  Free conservatives would find much to cheer about in President Calderon, less in Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, and little at all in Senora Presidente Kirschner of Argentina.  But that is not the point.  Each gained power through the "roll of the dice" process of democracy.  None knew they would win.   The lottery of democracy inhibits the worst in our nature.  It makes us realize the virtues of tolerance, compassion, and decency.

Contrary to the prejudice of many who think that democracy is the safeguard on tyranny created in the Icelandic Althing or the English Parliament or the stadtholders of the United Provinces, democracy actually began in the Mediterranean regions of Europe.  Athens and other Greek cities made it.  Romans perfected it.  Democracy, for that narrow purpose for which it is intended, works.  Despite all its flaws, it remains our hope in a world of vastly imperfect people.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
The age of Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II are rightly connected with the bloodless defeat of the Soviet evil empire.  But those magnificent defenders of human liberty did not look just at the Iron Curtain when planning the liberation of the human soul:  They looked at all mankind.  Reagan and Thatcher worked hard to free their citizens from the tyranny of too much government.  Pope John Paul II worked hard to free Catholics from the tyranny of excessive obsession with stuff. 

Under President Reagan, America moved back toward freedom.  Under Prime Minister Thatcher, Britain moved back toward markets and ordered liberty.  Under Pope John Paul II, Catholicism moved back toward a spiritually meaningful purpose to live that encompassed all mankind.  Twenty-five years ago, this December 10th, Argentina ended a long period of military rule, government by dictators like Juan Peron, and moved into the community of democracies.

The resolution of Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands War -- a grittiness which the generals of Argentina did not think soft European democrats could muster -- produced a revolution in Argentine government.  Democracy returned, and it has never left.  Standing back with an historian's eye, the period from 1978 to 2000 has been a remarkable revolution in the political affairs of the Hispanic world.

It was once assumed that nations like Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and the Philippines were incapable of self-government.  The dream of Bolivar and San Martin to recreate in South America what the United States was in North America seemed, fatally, to have failed.  The PRI in Mexico, for example, had never lost a presidential election until Vicente Fox.  Franco, dictator of Spain for thirty-six years, was anathema to modern liberals.  Argentina and Brazil were depressing rotations of democracy and junta.  Were Latin people immune to democracy? Not at all.

When Franco died, Spain evolved quickly into a constitutional democracy with democracy and freedom.  His hand-picked king, Juan Carlos, guided Spain into a free and peaceful democracy.  When Fox became President of Mexico, he ended seventy years of one-party rule -- and he did so peacefully and effectively:  President Calderon is also a member of PAN, the rightist party of opposition, and his party has significant strength in the Mexican Congress.

And when democrats came back to power in Argentina -- a nation that like Cuba once had a higher standard of living and education than France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland or Austria -- they came and stayed.  Argentina, which was once, in many ways, the second most affluent and cultured nation in the Western Hemisphere, returned to the fold of civilized, self-governing nations.

Winston Churchill correctly observed that democracy is the worst form of government in the world, except for all the rest.  The current President of Argentina is Cristina Kirschner, Argentina's own Hillary Clinton, whose husband, Nestor Kirschner, was president before her.  Rumors abound that the thuggish Hugo Chavez helped finance her campaign.  She adheres to the principles of the Justicialist Party, the odd bastard of Juan Peron which was able, simultaneously, to:  (1) Declare Mussolini in 1945, after allies had overrun Nazi concentration camps, the "greatest statesman of this century," (2) Condemn American imperialism in harsh terms and announce neutrality -- the "third way" -- during the Cold War, (3) Have Evita give the Fascist salute to Franco in Spain, during the 1950s, declaring that she was "giddy with joy" at being near the Caudillo; (4) Enter into close political relationships not only with Soviet Russia but Maoist China; (5) Hide Nazi war criminals and, moreover, supporting anti-Semitic riots In Buenos Aries after V.E. Day; (6) Support the Fascist-worshipper, Fidel Castro, when he ended the "reign" of Batista, a man who had generally received the unqualified support of the Cuban Communist Party; and (7) Always hated America, Israel, Jews, and Catholicism.

Like the socialist government of Spain, and the pseudo-conservative Mexican government of Fox and Calderon, the democratically elected government of Argentina seems indifferent to the political values we cherish; chummy with the totalitarian Leftists we abhor, and quiet about such blessings as liberty and transcendent moral values.   In short, the winners in democratic elections are often lousy creeps. So what is the difference?  Isn't one creepy governor about the same as another? 

No.  We buy into Leftist palaver when we assume that the mendacious poof who wins democratic elections has some mystical merit.  The only merit is that he (or she) received power from a rough majority of the governed.  But that is enough.  Uncertainty of power, much less than the source of power, is the great equalizer.  The chance of losing an election makes all participants in democracy interested in free speech.  Free conservatives would find much to cheer about in President Calderon, less in Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, and little at all in Senora Presidente Kirschner of Argentina.  But that is not the point.  Each gained power through the "roll of the dice" process of democracy.  None knew they would win.   The lottery of democracy inhibits the worst in our nature.  It makes us realize the virtues of tolerance, compassion, and decency.

Contrary to the prejudice of many who think that democracy is the safeguard on tyranny created in the Icelandic Althing or the English Parliament or the stadtholders of the United Provinces, democracy actually began in the Mediterranean regions of Europe.  Athens and other Greek cities made it.  Romans perfected it.  Democracy, for that narrow purpose for which it is intended, works.  Despite all its flaws, it remains our hope in a world of vastly imperfect people.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.