Many people see the election of Donald Trump in America as the dissolution of the American Republic; that this is a sign that America is another one of the many failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships. Thankfully, the American government's series of checks and balances have indicated that Trump's powers are being limited, and that, no, despite his best efforts, he is not the CEO of America.
But other countries have not been so lucky. Countries ravaged by war or financial depressions have broken under the strain, and the truly terrible have stepped onto their thrones to assume command over the legions of innocents. America may be safe for now, but there are countless failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships, leading to mass graves full of innocents and patriots alike praying for a better tomorrow.
Let me tell you a story about a populist leader who won a majority of the vote, yet a majority of the country hated and even feared him. He rallied up his people by turning them against the press, calling them false news. He pointed toward a minority groups, and said that they were to blame for their lot in life, that the Jews were the reason their lives were awful, and that he'd take care of that problem while making the country great again.
Admit it. If I didn't mention the Jews, you would have sworn I was talking about Donald Trump.
Adolf Hitler was elected. He didn't take power with guns. Hitler took power with propaganda. He just installed legislation to give himself more and more power, which, given Germany's crumbling economy, he could do. German became a failed democratic government, and soon became one of the many failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships.
The only real difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler's rise to power is that Hitler actually did improve Germany's economy. He made popular decisions. Veiled behind good will, he removed all opponents to his power, turning the democracy of Germany into a dictatorship where none could oppose him.
As you know, however, it didn't last. Nazi Germany fell, and Hitler killed himself. But not before he put to death 12 million in his concentration camps and death camps (or as our current administration likes to say, Holocaust Centers).
The story of Korea is a troubled one. While half of the country eventually did become democratic, it only did so in spite of Communist Russia and China's efforts, as well as a guerrilla group led by one Kim Il-Sung.
Kim Il-Sung led a group of soldiers against the Japanese. The Japanese had, decades earlier, conquered Korea as part of their attempt to reclaim the glory of the Japanese empire. Many people fell in line behind Kim Il-Sung, who resisted the empire in measured amounts.
While America fought Japan on the Pacific, Kim Il-Sung and his guerrilla troops watched as, in the last year of the war, Russian and Chinese soldiers marched through Korea to ward Japan back to its archipelago.
The majority of Koreans wanted independence following the war, but Russia and America decided for the next five years to help reconstruct the fallen Korea. Russia would help the northern half, while America helped the south.
As democratic speeches and elections started, a northern faction, led by populist Kim Il-Sung, rejected the democratic process, and attempted to overtake all of Korea.
Thus sparked the Korean War, and the formation of North Korea.
There was a time where Iraq claimed to be a democracy. but it is clear that Iraq, long before the Iraq Wars, that one of many failed democratic government that collapsed into dictatorships.
The Ba'ath Party overtook Iraq in the 60s, taking command of the country. Though officially a Republic, presidents held onto their position from term to term, only trading seats in the event of death. In this sense, the Ba'ath Party functioned less like a democracy or republic, and more like a monarchy.
Saddam Hussein assumed command of Iraq in 1979, and reigned as President of Iraq until his apprehension and execution under United States President George W. Bush. While today many people forget the danger Hussein posed to both his people and the world, you must not forget: this is the guy the UN investigated for using chemical weapons in a war against Iran – chemical weapons that had been banned since WWI for being inhumane and cruel.
And he got away with it!
Hussein was an authoritarian who refused to obey. And, as a result, he often found himself in the crosshairs.
And took the rest of Iraq with him.
Following the end of WWII, Britain surrendered control of its numerous colonies. The war had cost them dearly, breaking the once proud Empire to its foundation.
The first country in Africa to declare themselves a democracy was Ghana. In the early days, Ghana was managed to Britain before they were let off on their own. In a sense, democracy training wheels. The intent by Britain was not to let Ghana, which had not governed itself in years, to fall into disarray.
Sadly, imperialism had broken the countries of Africa in ways that could not be so easily put together again.
Initially, Ghana's Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah, would be turned down by the public should the masses disagree with his policies. But Nkrumah found this frustrating. He could not enact his policies fast enough with the people opposing them. He argued for immediate independence from Britain, for Ghana to rule as an independent nation.
Many Ghanan people opposed Nkrumah, with some trying to vote for the British to continue overseeing the country until Nkrumah left, or to replace Nkurmah's rule with a fair, just leadership.
Both parties failed. Nkrumah held onto his power, and, following the departure of the British, crushed the democratic checks and balances holding him back. All who ever had opposed Nkrumah ended up imprisoned or slain.
Ghana became one of many failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships once Nkrumah outlawed any opposing party to oppose his rule. Though Nkrumah was eventually overthrown, he inspired an unnerving precedent among the newly independent African cultures, inspiring other dictators to disassemble democracy.
Venezuela has always had issues with democracy. The democratic country failed to stop the rise of the drug cartels that truly ruled the streets of the country. Money bought loyalty, and private militias exacted power on the weak while the government stood by to do nothing.
Yet, technically, it was a democracy, if only in name.
Throughout the 20th century, Venezuelan history has been rife with corrupt politicians who steal from the country to fill their own pockets, and who have political rivals attacked if not killed. Corruption reached fever pitch when, in 1998, Hugo Chavez entered the picture.
Chavez promised to restore order and peace to Venezuela.
He didn't. At all.
Venezuela has often claimed to be a democracy. However, this is one of many failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships. Although, sad to say, Venezuela seems to think people might actually believe that they are democratic by looking at their government on paper.
Among the first of the British colonies to gain independence, Uganda's failed democratic government remains one of the most tragic, disturbing stories in the catalogue of failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships.
Uganda had a president in the 60s. It had democracy. But the foundation was never stable. From the beginning, the military pressed against democracy. They had the guns. They had the power. Why could they not rule the country?
In 1971, General Idi Amin led a military coup that usurped power over the country. A week later, he declared himself President of Uganda, a decision that already defied all the tenants of democratic elections. All opposition to Amin's rule resulted in death. Some 50,000 individuals lost their lives in Amin's eight-year rule.
The people did not want Amin.
But Amin did not care.
It took force to banish him from Uganda, which has struggled to recover from Amin's shadow ever since.
When Libyan rebels overthrew tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, many saw this as a moment of liberation. Libya had been characterized as a zone of political corruption and tyranny. Many people believed – maybe hoped – that this civilian revolution would lead to a new Libya, one led with good intentions and peace.
The faintest attempts at democratic reconstruction began.
But Libya proved to be a failed democratic government before it could even start.
Countless individual members of the revolution lusted for power. They saw a chance to assume command of the country, and, as a result, ended up killing each other. This broke down into a new war, one with rebels coming at one another with guns and explosives.
The frail government holding the rebellion together could say nothing that stopped the power hungry factions from coming at one another, nor could American forces help. Rushed elections led to underdeveloped governments, which led to enemy factions killing each other.
And then ISIS came, and saw a country to conquer. It conquered Libya's oil fields, occupying it so that the smaller and smaller factions of government could retrieve none of it. They starved financially.
And, slowly, democracy died. While I wish I could say that Libya is one of the many failed democratic governments that collapsed into dictatorships, the truth is that Libya collapsed into many dictatorships, each one worse than the last.