[I know, I know, this was weeks ago. But I've been away.]
Okay, so you can't fool all of the people all of the time. So what? You don't need to.
The real question is: can you fool enough of the people enough of the time?
It's always seemed to me that the chief virtue of democracy is that it does the least harm. I don't believe for a moment that the exercise of individual franchise will result in outcomes that are optimal for society, but I do believe, or would like to believe, that it will result in outcomes that are not morally heinous. The underlying assumption is that human beings are, well, human, and that a government that represents the will of the people, however approximately, will never have the same appetite for atrocity and suppression as one run by an individual or set of individuals, simply because the will of the people is too weak.
Watching Modi return to office, though, I have to wonder if that's really true. If we lived in a world of frustrated, self-hating, morally apathetic bigots, would democracy still make sense? What if the verdict of the people is something we cannot reconcile with our own conscience?
Not that I'm suggesting that this is the case in Gujarat. Yet. I'm going to continue to believe, like most people, that Modi's re-election is mere foolishness, a choice made by people who don't realize what they're doing. It's an ingenious hypothesis, and the only one I can bring myself to accept.
But what if (and again, I'm not saying this is true or likely to happen, I'm just speculating) this really were the will of the people? What if in the coming months the state government of Gujarat passed laws that were openly discriminatory to Muslims, and the people approved? What if a majority of the people of Gujarat knowingly and deliberately wanted religious minorities discriminated against, even killed? Would it be right for us to overrule the verdict of the people? Where, if anywhere, does democracy end and humanity begin?