Winston Churchill once commented that democracy was the worst form of government ever invented, except every other form that had ever been tried.
Democracy led to Ireland’s selection of the puppet Dustin the Turkey as its Eurovision representative – the best choice? Who knows, European television audiences may react similarly and conclude that the surreal performance is a worthy winner.
What was the function of democracy in the process?
Were there votes for Dustin that were cast as an attempt to subvert the whole process? Did people think Eurovision music so bad, so bland and dull that they wanted to undermine the whole process? Was a vote for Dustin a revolutionary approach to democracy?
Were there votes for Dustin by people who wanted to thumb their noses at Europe for various reasons? Maybe people thought, “we have sent you what we thought was our best and you have rejected it, so we’ll send you our worst instead and see what you make of it”. Was a vote for Dustin an anarchist approach?
Were there votes for Dustin because people thought this was the best way of getting votes elsewhere in Europe? It wasn’t so much a case of choosing what was the best. but what was expedient. Was a vote for Dustin a populist approach?
Were there votes for Dustin because people genuinely thought that this was the best song and they wanted it to go to Europe in the belief that it would also persuade European voters that it was the best song? Was a vote for Dustin a liberal democratic approach?
Were there votes for Dustin by people who just thought the whole thing was a laugh? An indifferent and apathetic approach to democracy?
Voting for Dustin, like all democratic processes, was an amalgam of motivations, there were positive and negative reasons, there were widely differing objectives. Dustin’s victory does not represent people speaking with a single voice saying, “this was the best song”.
Next time you hear a politician saying people have voted for something, look at the many reasons why people may have voted the way they did, and remind him that the people of Ireland once voted for a turkey.