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Egypt, Democracy, and a Mirror for us All

This NYT piece on Egypt strikes me as being fair, honest, and insightful. Quotable:

Mr. Mubarak ruled through fraudulent elections, with the support of Egypt’s security forces, crony capitalists and the United States and other powers. Mr. Morsi is something else entirely: Egypt’s democratically elected president.

Still, he has been a disastrous leader: divisive, incompetent, heavy-handed and deaf to wide segments of Egyptian society who do not share his Islamist vision. He and his Brotherhood backers have focused on consolidating power rather than delivering on his promises — to represent all Egyptians; to fix the economy; to make the streets safer, cleaner, less traffic-choked; to treat all Egyptians equally. None have been kept.

Those are arguments against him. But using nondemocratic means to remove an elected leader, however inept, subverts the very essence of democracy by departing from its first principle: the dependable transfer of power peacefully through elections.

The situation in Egypt reminds me of something a political figure in the US said to me recently: "Both parties use wedge issues to win elections, and in so doing, we render the nation ungovernable." I suppose this is a rhetorical expression of "those who live by the sword die by the sword."

Those who succeed by wedge issues will fail by wedge issues, and those who succeed by coup will fail by coup. As Ben Franklin said, a Republic is good "if you can keep it." Keeping it is not as easy as it seems, and requires basic virtues of citizenship and civility from us all.