Democracy is not the system in which everything you like gets done and nothing you don’t does. Rather, it’s the system in which the people have their say over what does get done. This rather vital distinction gets missed all to often. So it is with this diatribe against gender ideology.
What was even more remarkable than his sudden electoral surge was that Alvarado had managed to make the election in Central America’s most stable democracy hinge on an abstract – some would say specious – concept: “gender ideology”.
The phrase is neither a legitimate academic term, nor a political movement.
It is a theory drummed up by hard-right religious activists, who present it as a gay- and feminist-led movement out to upend the traditional family and the natural order of society. It’s a catchall phrase to sell a false narrative and justify discrimination against women and LGBT people. And it is winning elections.
OK, it’s not a legitimate academic term. But then nor is Brexit or ever closer European union. They’re not even things which are within academe’s remit, they’re expressions of political will about how the world should be. Yet it is quite obviously a political movement – political movements being the things which influence politics.
Which is the point at issue here for me. Not whether gender ideology has any value as an idea, but that things which win elections are, inevitably, political ideas. The importance of this being the following startling claim:
Ultimately, what’s being targeted is the infrastructure of democracy.
The people getting to decide whether they like gender ideology or not is, as with Brexit, not a denial of democracy nor an undermining of it, it is that thing, it is the very point and function of democracy. Oi! You oiks! What is it you want?
What is getting confused here is the difference between civil rights and democracy. The two are not the same thing. Civil rights means that there’s some class of things which are not subject to that democracy. Say, execution. Or jailing without trial. Or the ability to have an abortion. Or protection against domestic violence. Sure, we’ll all have different ideas about what should be in that protected class but it’s only capricious and totalitarian states that don’t make the distinction at all.
It’s an important distinction for us to make too. For much of what we’re told about the world in economic terms is said to be subject to that democracy only. The rich should pay higher taxes is a reasonable political demand, a democratic one even. That the rich should be dispossessed isn’t – that runs into that brick wall of the civil right to property. We can and many do equally argue that there’s a right to abortion which elections cannot be used to overturn. That is, to insist that it’s a civil right. OK, but that is insisting that there are some things to which democracy doesn’t apply. All we’re arguing now is over which those are, not the existence of the concept itself.
Which is why this difference is important to note. Not everything is subject to the vote of the people, to those democratic decisions. We do indeed agree that some things are above that, need to be kept away from the whims of the mob. OK, great, which are they? For you cannot have it both ways and insist that the populace is sovereign and then insist that they’re not now, can you?