This House Prefers a Cynical and Pessimistic Perception of Democratic Politics to an Idealistic and Optimistic one


Note: This motion is from an online debate competition called as It Matters Online Debate 2020. So the motion’s full credit goes to the event and A-core. The content of analysis however is the writer’s work and responsibility.

Disclaimer: The motion analysis will provide information in regard to the potential case direction and arguments that can be brought in debate. The information is formatted as big idea, not speech script, and readers that want to use those ideas will have to construct those in their own made speech.

 General Definitions

  • The word “prefers” in this motion puts a context in which agreement or disagreement of the motion be based upon clash of principle and practical values that aimed to benefit and strengthen democratic politics. The motion does not direct the debate to discuss about whether one should support or reject democratic politics. Gov and Opp both support democratic politics, but will argue which is a better form of perceiving democratic politics, how will cynical, pessimistic perception, and idealistic and optimistic perception be translated in principle and practical;
  • Democratic politics is a system that protects society’s freedom, rights and obligations, and a platform that is used for society to channel their freedom and rights as aspiration to participate in determining the overall direction of a state. The system is crystallized or ran by 5 stakeholders / institutions:
  1. Society = a person or a collection of persons (community, union, company, etc) that becomes the direct source of aspiration and legitimacy to the democratic politics;
  2. Legislative = parliament, elected by society, that represents society’s aspiration and crystallize those aspirations in laws that aimed to protect and execute those aspirations, and also to monitor the Executive;
  3. Executive = a government body, elected by society, that executes and enforce the laws that are created by the Legislative;
  4. Judicative = judicial body that protects the constitutional rights and freedom of society, and also to monitor activities of society, the Legislative, and Executive so that activities may be ruled out whenever those are in violation of Constitution and laws;
  5. Media = institution that provide information to society, and that also become representation of society’s aspiration (or their own company’s ideology) but in less bureaucratic manner and power as the Executive, Legislative, and Judicative, though they may have power to influence those 3 institutions.
  • Cynical and pessimistic perception = perception that tends to question the validity and genuineness of democratic politics to empower, represent, and protect society’s freedom, rights, and aspiration (the nature and practicality of this perception will be further explored in the argument segment);
  • Idealistic and optimistic perception = contrary of the definition above (the nature and practicality of this perception will be further explored in the argument segment).

In Defense of Government (Gov’s case)

The goal of Gov is to protect broad society that have benefitted from democratic politics by defending and empowering the value of democratic politics defined above. There are 3 main arguments that Gov can use: historical development of democratic politics (to prove the nature of democracy is pessimistic and cynical one), the relevancy of the development to current society (to prove that democratic politics are still work in process and that pessimistic and cynical perception is needed to develop democratic politics), and the practicality of such perception that will benefit democratic politics (to prove how such perception can be practically beneficial to develop democratic politics).

And while supporting and defending your case, do not forget to attack and devaluate the Opp’s case by explaining their principle irrelevancy and harms done to democratic politics.

Historical development of democratic politics

Democracy is not born due to people’s optimism and idealism, that its origin is not from theory to develop society’s life in a good, worry free way. It is born in a process of harsh, often violent hierarchy and class struggle, between the rich and poor, rulers and the ruled. People were once severely oppressed by rulers and the upper class.

There was no constitution, rule of law, or democracy to protect society’s rights. Freedom was often trampled by people in power, and that abuse of power for personal benefit was common.

Society in large had no say on state’s matter, was overly taxed, punished without clear reason and valid rule, and must personally struggled to stay alive without help from rulers. Minorities and the poor were also marginalized and faced worse situation than the relatively better one of the common.

Society just became source of income for royal treasury, and manpower to wage war to other rulers. Then one day, society became sick of the oppression and disregard of their life value.

They became aware, cynical, and pessimistic of their condition and rulers, and those perceptions evolved into anger and explosive state of emotion that eventually transformed into a massive scale of revolution (such as the French Revolution) that toppled down despot rulers and introduced the idea of human freedom, human rights, supremacy and rule of law, social contract and will – based government, and the Trias Politica theory that laid the foundation of modern democratic politics institution based on the idea of separation of power  (that a body holding too much political power is dangerous and due to that, political power has to be separated, executed, and monitored by multiple organs [check and balance], which are the Executive, Legislative, and Judicative body).

The spirit of democracy that is embodied in democratic politics are established due to cynical and pessimism perception of society to their condition and rulers, which evoked the urge to be critical of their situation and challenged the rulers.

Their condition would not be better if they were idealistic and optimistic with their condition that embodied into the feeling of content of their condition, that they trusted their rulers, and that if situation was bad, then somehow things would change.

Contemporary development of democratic politics

While cynical and pessimistic perception was fundamental in the historical creation and development of democratic politics, the former also has essential part to play on the current modern development of the latter.

Although democratic politics have been well established in certain states, and still developing in other states, the established or developing democratic politics are prone to the corruption and manipulation.

In well established system, democratic politics have been susceptible to over influence of tycoons due to their lobbying power in the parliament, support of executive candidate, and contribution to economic development, which affects the policies created by democratic politics to be more biased toward the interest of tycoons rather than common people.

The media industry is also susceptible to powerful influence or interest of certain parties that affects the type of information that is served to the public, extreme media bias has made it hard for society to get reliable information that is essential for them to evaluate their government’s activities.

The rise of ultra conservative, far right political movement in certain population of society and political stronghold have made difficult as well as they are manipulating democratic politics for their cause of color based supremacy and over emphasis of personal freedom that disregard their obligation and the need to respect others’ rights and freedom as well, minorities rights are starting to be questioned, and rights are turning into privileged freedom.

Democratic politics and its democratic values have started to lose its ground. The old but common enemies of society, which are hierarchy and class oppression, have certainly made their comeback in cunning ways and new, more complex dynamics, manipulating the democratic politics that was built to protect the democratic values that the oppressors tried to disregard.

In countries that are still developing their democratic politics, things are not better as well. New and inexperienced democratic systems are still prone to challenge of authorities by stakeholders that do not wish for a democratic regime.

Tribal, sectarian, or separatist violence are also still around the corner, and many people lost their lives, or living in miserable conditions due to this conflict to uphold or torn down democratic politics.

Bad situations in both scenarios will worsen if society uses ideal and optimistic perception of democratic politics. It is downright naïve. Society will not be aware and critical of the problems around them, or if they do, they will be complacent to act because they believe in the existing democratic politic system, that the system can sort out the problem, and it is in government’s ability and duty to deal such circumstances.

Society tends to take things for granted because they have enjoyed themselves much with the provision of good live by well developed democratic politics, that their rights and freedom are well protected and they have nothing to worry about, and eventually they will put more focus on developing their personal life.

This will weaken democratic politics further in a battle that they are losing because not only that the democratic politics have been compromised; the system does not have the necessary support from the population to fight in political and judicial frontline.

In the end, tycoons will maximize their influence to establish the power foothold in democratic politics because society does not push the system, the government, to fight against such move.

Ultra conservative and far right movement will have much room the maneuver and spread its influence because negatively affected society do not provide the necessary countermeasures to fight back their influence, and despotic warlords will launch coup against democratic government because the former does not see effective society’s support to the latter, and that international community will be less likely to provide support the struggling young democratic regime due to unconvincing support from the population to the regime and will view the conflict more as group conflict rather that legitimate government versus rogue warlords.

However, the situation will not sound that hopeless and devastating if society, instead of taking the ideal and optimistic perception, will adopt cynical and pessimistic perception. Because such perception promotes positive anxiety and caution that situation will not always be good and there may be stakeholders that will challenge democratic politics, that the existing democratic politics are not good enough to embrace and defend democratic values, thus it needs further development.

This will make society to be more aware, critical, and are more willing to scrutinize the development and activities of democratic politics. When there are problems, society will take part to defend their democratic values that are protected and empowered by democratic politics, thus making it harder for rogue forces to manipulate or even destroy democratic politics.

Practicality of cynical and pessimistic perception

There are several things that society can do to crystallize the perception into actions that help to defend democratic politics from degradation, such as:

  • Gather the population that has similar concern and anxiety toward the problem. Form a coalition of people so that aspirations can be louder and stronger. Support existing communities, groups, unions, organizations, etc that have similar interest by financial donation to technical contribution. Spread the aspirations and empower the coalition. When the community power base has grown big enough, demonstrate, go on strike, and use public communication to make things sound urgent. This will eventually create attention. Media that feeds on public attention to get revenue also will help to amplify the aspirations. Government critics will start popping up to discuss the situation. Eventually, there will be enough distraction to grab the attention of the people in power. Some good and genuine politicians will use this momentum to push their pro democracy agenda into the government, and if the government is good, then they will appreciate and be motivated by the aspiration. If the people in power is less sensitive, to the very least the distraction will push them to act, otherwise inaction means bad public image that will affect public popularity and electability;
  • The people can start to form their own media platform if media industry is no longer trustworthy to provide accurate, unbiased, and critical information to the public. It is essential for the public to get proper information so that they can perform their role to scrutinize the democratic politics. Now, there are many new community based news media, especially community of experts, that have established themselves in the public, and they are well received and generally trustworthy. When real information is accessible to the public, it will help to create massive awareness and make the situation to be urgent, thus society will eventually move to fight against the manipulation of democratic politics in order to defend their right and freedom;
  • Use legal procedure such as constitutional review to protect the people’s constitutional rights. Make case in the Supreme Court as the court is the judicial body that upholds the constitution. This will make the stance of the people stronger as their rights and freedom are guaranteed by constitution and protected by Supreme Court. It will also make the people’s aspiration to be legally binding so that government will have to comply, and offenders will be punished.
  • In case of trouble against warlords, the people must show their support to the legitimate government, either by political support, to joining arms against the warlords. This will increase the government’s legitimacy to call for foreign humanitarian intervention to help combating the warlords and restore order.

It is righteous to concede that society should and will believe that democratic system and politics are important to protect and empower their rights and freedom, that the existence of democratic system and politics should be perceived with idealism and optimism because indeed they are important to society.

However, society should remember democratic system and politics are far from perfect and prone to corruption and manipulation. Only when the society is skeptical and pessimistic to the execution / activities of democratic system and politics that the latter will be protected from manipulation and corruption.

The existence of a system is only as good as it’s development and maintenance. And moreover after knowing the urgent status quo that are currently faced by their beloved democratic system and politics, society have the absolute rights to be skeptical and pessimistic, and they must do so in order for the society to more anxious, cautious, concerned, and critical to scrutinize and protect the endangered democratic politics.

Being idealistic and optimistic will only lead to complacency and naivety, thus putting democratic politics under further danger of being overran by the “bad stakeholders”.

In Defense of Opposition (Opp’s case)

Opposition will have the same goal as Gov, and will also follow the case set up that has been established by Gov team since their portrayal of historical development and status quo are realistic.

Opp will argue that such status quo must not be dealt with cynical and pessimistic perception due to the harm that can be caused, and that status quo will improve with idealistic and optimistic perception.

First and foremost, challenge Gov’s principle analysis about the relation between pessimistic, cynical perception and development since those are the main spirit of their case and practicality.

If Opp can justify their principle value and defeat the gov’s, then it will be easier to justify your case’s practicality and devalue gov’s one. Second, explain the harm of Gov’s case in relation to the practicality of solutions to status quo, and third, explain why status quo will be better on your side.

Principle of motivation

Opp concedes that certain dose of gov’s defended perception is needed to achieve some sort of improvement to any kind of existing status quo, that people’s nature of un-satisfaction will drive them to development.

However, what’s missing is that people also need to see that there is hope of improvement in the future, that what they are doing are important, beneficial, righteous, and that they have a part to play in the development and a part to be in when the development is completed.

People need to be idealistic in what they are doing so that they know what they are doing, that they know the vision of development. And people also need to be optimistic so that they are motivated to achieve their cause due to the fact that they believe that there is a valid cause they are struggling for, that what they do is good, righteous, and beneficial, that there will be sweet end to their effort.

Idealistic and optimistic perception must be the presupposed of cynical and pessimistic perception. The former must be prioritized than the latter because otherwise, people will be unmotivated and only see hopelessness when facing difficult circumstance.

People naturally will not have the willingness to struggle if they don’t believe in their cause and don’t see the potential fruits of their effort. Gov has dismissed the idea that motivation and spirit are generated by idealistic and optimistic perception, and that without the formers, there will be no meaning or power to transform cynical and pessimistic perception into tangible actions.

Gov in reality will only promote despair and hopelessness that are counterproductive. When people are cynical and pessimistic with how democratic politics are ran, but are idealistic to view that they believe and need democratic politics and that they are optimistic that to have clean and fair democratic politics is an undeniable possibility, that they have a part to play and will have a place in the democratic politics, then they will fight the status quo.

But if from the start they are cynical about the value and importance of democratic politics and pessimistic with situation, then people will be disengaged with democratic politics because they don’t see any valid cause and future.

Harm and practicality

When society has become disengaged to democratic politics due to perception proposed by Gov, there are several harms that can be expected to occur that will compromise not only the democratic politics, but also vulnerable stakeholders eventually.

  • Voting system will be compromised. Pessimistic and skeptical society will have fewer tendencies to exercise their suffrage due to the perception that their suffrage will not help to change the situation, that all politicians are the same regardless of their track records, vision and programs. People won’t vote anymore, or even if they will vote, they will do so as a formality or due to obedience to the law, they will be less likely to engage with information that may be useful to determine their choice which leads to scatter voting and vote that may not represent their own value. Moreover, this kind of voting circumstance will also result into less socio-political support to candidates that maybe can make positive difference in democratic politics because they don’t earn enough vote, or that they don’t have much bargaining position to influence policies. This eventually weakens the political and legal stronghold of the “good folks” against status quo, therefore nothing much will change. Or in the worst case scenario, ultra conservative, far right, color based supremacy movements, supporters, and politicians will gain the upper hand because they are more eager to manipulate democratic politics for their cause, and that there is not enough counterbalance to their legal, socio-political power;
  • War on discourse will be compromised because vulnerable population will no longer have the spirit to voice out their rights, freedom, and critical opinion. This eventually will reduce political capital of good politicians to take action or influence executive and legislative power, giving adversaries the upper hand, or in the other situation, vulnerable population will not be able to push passive government to take measures. And in society, the discourse and information that are biased to far right, ultra conservative, color based supremacy will be more widespread in easy manner because there are no counterbalancing aspirations and information. Undecided population or perhaps even the decided one will be more convinced and even support the cause of the “bad guys”. The war of aspirations on the street and media will be a lost cause. This will further degrade not only the confidence of the vulnerable, but also their sense of security because they feel pressurized and don’t feel safe anymore around due to massive opposition against them;
  • The Constitution that protects rights and freedom of citizens will be indirectly castrated because no vulnerable society will want to launch legal review that will activate the Constitution in Supreme Court’s ruling;
  • And even worse in countries that are still developing or even establishing democratic politics, legitimate and democratic government will soon be toppled down by factions of society due to their distrust to the government and are controlled by warlords that are fighting one another, causing more bloodshed and suffering. Being skeptical and pessimistic of newly born democratic politics means that factions do not care with common wellbeing of the people and are more interested to uphold their tribe or group supremacy and privilege.

All of the harms can be mitigated or prevented, and the practicalities that Gov proposes to improve status quo can only achieved tangibly if they are based on the principle of motivation based on idealism and optimism proposed by Opp.

Hunger and anger for change that is triggered by pessimistic and skeptical perception unguided by idealism and optimism as the foremost principle will only lead to no development, or even worse, destruction of democratic politics due to no motivation and clear direction.

Idealistic and optimistic perception however, will certainly bring positive change with good motivation and clear direction. Therefore, Gov’s case should be secondary to Opp’s, and idealism plus optimism to democratic politics should be prioritized.