Winston, How Could You?
What’s not to like about Winston Churchill? He smoked cigars. He drank all day. He said horrid things to people. Seemingly a splendid man.
He also contributed rather a lot to winning World War II though there is that Gallipoli unpleasantness in World War I. Best to gloss over that one.
But, on November 11, 1947, Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
What was he thinking?
True, he had been turfed out as Prime Minister and he might have been licking his wounds, but wouldn’t some of his other thoughts on that have worked just as well?
“They have a perfect right to kick me out. That is democracy.”
Or, when offered the Order of the Garter, “Why should I accept the Order of the Garter, when the British people have just given me the Order of the Boot?”
Either of those would have been entirely sufficient to express his annoyance with the ungrateful electorate.
Leave aside the question of what he actually said. I happen to prefer “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” but there remains disagreement on the exact words.
And leave aside the question of whether he said it or quoted it. Undeniably, he popularized it.
Again, I ask what was he thinking?
Surely he knew he would be quoted forever on all subjects.
How could he not have anticipated that his words would serve to justify all manner of reprehensible behavior on the part of those who have so successfully exploited the pitfalls of democracy?
Steal an election? So what.
Lie to the voters? So what.
Battles that cannot end because livelihoods depend on them? So what.
Grandstanding? So what.
Useless political parties? So what.
Multi-billion dollar campaigns funded with bribes? So what.
An earnest delivery of the magic words will solve all of that.
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Winston, how could you?