Anatole Kaletsky @ The Times

. . . the most important function of democracy is not to choose good governments but to throw out bad ones. It is the right to eject bad governments that prevents tyranny, makes government serve the people, discourages corruption and keeps most democratic nations at peace most of the time.

The corollary of this observation is that politicians must always live in fear of punishment by the voters. But if voters repeatedly fail to punish incompetence or corruption or gross misjudgment, then the fear of defeat is lifted and democracy loses its disciplining power. And a country in which the dominant parties can afford to scoff at the discipline of the ballot box, is the point when democracy starts to slide into self-perpetuating oligarchy.

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Whether or not Mr McCain would continue the policies of President Bush (and much of the evidence suggests that his would be a Bush presidency on steroids), he would keep in power the coalition of interests that the Republican Party represents: the energy and military-industrial lobbies, the religious conservatives, the anti-environment interests and the neoconservative think-tanks. These groups - which have gained enormous influence, both financially and intellectually, under President Bush - are as responsible for the blunders of the Bush Administration as Mr Bush himself, arguably more so, given the President's notorious lack of interest in the details of any of his own policies.

If a Republican is again elected president, these same centres of power will continue to dominate Washington. However many wars they encouraged, however high the price of oil rose, however many tax dollars were redistributed in their favour, the neoconservatives and Pentagon contractors and religious fundamentalists and oil and Wall Street lobbies would conclude that there would be no political price to pay for failure. They would be justified in concluding that there is no longer any democratic check on their ambitions.

It is only by ejecting the Republicans from the White House that American voters can send the message that they are still in charge of their country and that gross government incompetence will not go unpunished.


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