October 9th, 2013
01:07 PM ET

Zakaria: Something rotten with American system?

By Fareed Zakaria

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

It is the defining moment of a democracy – when an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one, from the opposing party. Think of George H.W.  Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter doing the same for Ronald Reagan. Across the world, this is the acid test of a genuine democracy. Mexicans will tell you that they knew that had gotten there when their President, Ernesto Zedillo, after seven decades of one-party rule, allowed free elections and stood with the newly elected successor and affirmed his legitimacy.

The basic and powerful idea behind this ritual is that in a democracy, the process is more important than the outcome. If a genuine democratic process has been followed, we have to accept the results, regardless of how much we dislike them. The ultimate example of this in recent American history might be Al Gore's elegant acceptance of the process – complicated, politicized, but utterly constitutional – that put George W Bush in the White House. It must also have been very difficult for Richard Nixon to report the results of the 1960 election – which John F Kennedy won by a razor thin margin and was marred by voter fraud – but he did. However much you dislike the outcome, you respect the democratic process.

More from GPS: How the world sees the shutdown

I would have been happy to see President Obama compromise on the budget, taxes, spending, even Obamacare. But he cannot compromise on the principal that the rules of democracy must be respected, whatever the outcome. If Democrats had threatened to shut down the government or default on the debt to force the repeal of the Bush tax cuts or defund the Iraq War, I would have hoped President George Bush would also have been uncompromising.

America's power and influence abroad derive in large measure from the strength of American democracy. If American politicians start playing fast and loose with the rules, doing whatever it takes to get the results that they want, what does that say to people in Russia, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela who get pious lectures on the rules of democracy from Americans. It tells them that something is deeply rotten with the American system right now.

Watch the video for the full take.

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Topics: GPS Show • Politics

soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. lewtwo

    Something rotten with American system?
    It is called the Tea Party

    October 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • DaveYoung

      No my friend, the rot is pure Obama

      October 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • David Laidig

        I I am very pleased that you are able to realize the Importance of one MAN....Our President Mr Obama

        October 13, 2013 at 3:31 am |
      • george braedon

        Thank goodness that your sentiment is in the minority.

        October 13, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Daniel

      Throw out every House Republican that votes no on the latest deal.

      October 15, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  2. TJeff1776

    The extreme bottom line in this country is horribly simply- big money runs the show and NOT the American people. The congressional vote is bought off. Trust me, when the so-called "shutdown" starts to bite the big boys, the shutdown ends......period and a report. And which party MORE represents them ?????....errrrrrrrr....the Pubs, of course. When their money is threatened........presto......180 degree turn.

    October 10, 2013 at 4:47 am |
    • Daniel Daronda

      Great comment! In the old days, Rich Racists used to be an Ol' Boy's club, called the Republican Party........... approx 20% of that Ol' Boy's club have been demoted to becoming Poor Racists, aka: Tea Baggers......... they can easily be identified by their "White Trash" Tattoos, their hatred of Obama and most importantly, their lack of education.......... 🙁 These losers watch Fox News 24×7 and "love" Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh............ and they really really want to take the entire country down into the gutter, where they obviously reside........... thank God there are enough of us who will have NONE of it...........

      October 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • DaveYoung

        The only racism that is evident in America is the 95% who voted for pigment. It is blakk racism and it is dirty.

        October 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • DaveYoung

      The democrats are in charge of two branches, not the Republicans. Your very filthy friends are the problem.

      October 12, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
      • Daniel Daronda

        QED = Quod Erat Demonstratum.......... 🙁

        October 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  3. popseal

    Human nature obviously common to all 'systems' is best managed where the Judeo Christian ethic is promoted. Pagan societies like the one where this Fareed clown comes from are terrible. Terrible countries have terrible gods, it's just that simple. If that's too big of a pill, find the inner city nearest you and attend any religious service therein. If it pretends to be Christian, you'll find an emotional, shallow imitation that is more Marxist neo-liberation crapola than Pauline doctrine, etc. CNN has lots of people from other places very willing to criticize America. Those jokers need to go back to the wonderlands they came from. But what could a jingoistic patriot like me know?

    October 10, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Daniel Daronda

      Let me pop your seal, my dear popseal........ every single religion on Planet Earth, has been involved, at some point in history, in the death of human beings. Jews and Christians are certainly no exceptions. Over 50% of wars, and the death and carnage that resulted from them, were fought in the name of God....... sadly, noble tenets such as "Thou shallt not kill" and "Love thy neighbor" seem to get conveniently forgotten, when the war bugle sounds..... 🙁 Have you stopped to perhaps wonder about exactly how YOUR ancestors may have come to America and taken control of the place? The incredibly brutal murder of the Native Americans followed by the blatant theft of their lands, can never be forgotten......... yes, you are the ignorant joker that should be sent packing, right back to the sick wonderland that your ancestors hailed from.......... when you have cared to educate yourself to the level of Fareed Zakaria, then and only then may you dare to stand up to him.......... until then, your clown comments are merely the wimperings of a fool.......... 🙁

      October 11, 2013 at 12:59 am |
      • mountainlady

        Sorry, Daniel. While I agree with your disagreement with this poster's religious stance, there ARE religions that do not and have never killed. Buddhists do not kill. Bahai's do not kill. Wiccans do not kill. Other than your universal condemnation of all religions.... I agree with you. Judging anyone's intelligence or opinion based on his religious beliefs (especially when the poster condemns any non-Christian beliefs) is lame.

        October 12, 2013 at 2:47 am |
      • Carlos F. Suyi


        October 13, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Mark O. David

      quite a bit if you had an open mind.You are a religious person doomed by your creed.Think for yourself.You MAY find you like it to solve complex problems.I can only hope so for your sake.Peace and love,just like Jesus said

      October 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  4. Daniel Daronda

    You have absolutely "nailed it", again, Fareed! Something is indeed wrong with our American system. Unfortunately, America has become a nation of spoiled brats. If a senator is allowed to talk rubbish for days, including reading from Dr. Suess books, on the Senate Floor, just so that a Bill gets blocked, a process called filibustering............. if a small group of losers, aka: Tea Baggers, are allowed to shutdown the government, just because they don't like a "Black man" as president........ we Americans are in a lot more trouble than we think we are in........... yes the 5 D's: Divorce, Drugs, Debt, Decadence & Deception are destroying us from within........... which is exactly what happened to the Romans in 476 AD......... 🙁

    October 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Mike

      Dude...tell it like it is! Whoa, you're my hero. You speak the truth Bro and you do so eloquently. Call out ignorance for what it is. Take no prisoners. Well said!

      October 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • Daniel Daronda

        Thank you Mike......... God bless you too, bro'.......... 🙂

        October 13, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  5. the dude

    Rotten? the influence of religion and ignorance. how is that rotten?
    How can Christian Evangelicals be treated as serious individuals when they suffer from mass delusion?
    how does allowing people to vote regardless of their mental ability to think clearly and not be under the cult like influence of religion and false doctrine rotten? –

    How does the electorate who gather in large numbers much like lemmings then vote incompetent people into the house of representatives because they actually get their news from guys like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh rotten?

    How can that be? How can the candy apple from a priest be anything other than the body of Christ? how can such a large percentage of people in this country actually use mythology as a moral compass? how could that be rotten?

    Rot? I say not!

    everything is just fine and dandy.....my name is jed-i- die-yah... road don go there.......(banjo begins to play)

    October 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • john smith

      America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
      In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
      During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
      In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
      Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015. ha ha

      October 11, 2013 at 12:47 am |
      • ✠RZ✠

        Given all the existing animal species on this planet, none are more brutal and blood thirsty than humankind. Yet we are no physical match for the likes of lions, tigers, and bears just to name a few, nor comparatively speaking anywhere near the strength and ruggedness of a lowly ant. Clearly, it is our own minds and the experience, belief, and knowledge therein that must be reckoned with. Although greed and money have more recently received much notoriety, and rightfully so, historically and to this very day, it is both religion and education that can be held accountable for more atrocities, death, and bloodshed than is imaginable. And so therein lies the "root of all terror", and evil, and fear, and unimaginable devastation. And until these potential horrors are first dealt with accordingly and somehow made agreeable to all, there can be no peace amongst all the living on Earth. One can only wonder what difference might have come by dropping trillions of dollars in internet connections and iPads on other countries, rather than bombs and guns.

        October 11, 2013 at 7:43 am |
      • Trevor

        RZ- ALL have one common denominator, and that is man, and he and he alone in his self-serving nature is RESPONSIBLE for what you describe, NOT "religion" and not "education" in and of themselves. You talk about how to "deal with them accordingly"? Please explain specifically how you "deal with them"...you can't. I suggest you stop deflecting responsibility from our own selfish choices, which is the "root" of the problem...

        October 11, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • ecleggett

        America wanted to stay out of most other country's wars and battles before WWII. The Cold War had a lot to do with many of those other imperfect wars we got ourselves into. We installed a US friendly government in Iran in the hopes it would confine the borders of the then rapidly expanding Soviet Union. We were not trying to expand our borders like many of our other empirical ancestors.

        October 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
      • ✠RZ✠

        Trevor, Good point, and please forgive me of my own inadequacies. Yes, selfishness and greed come in many forms and guises, but for the most part, none of us at least go around shooting young girls because their education might pose a threat to our survival. And although you may not entirely agree, I view education and religion as man made things, or certainly things that are highly controlled and influenced by man. And clearly, by your own education and/or religion you you are cognizant of your own selfishness and greed but must always keep it in check. So you are entirely correct in pointing out that education and religion in themselves are not so much the issue as is what we are being taught and made to believe. Remember, the world was once flat and witches were burned on the stake. I hope that might help clarify things.

        October 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  6. Jamal

    Well done Fareed. Its about time you tell the truth! CHECK PLEASE !!

    October 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  7. Alfred Wiratunga

    popseal are you an American Indian? If not you too have roots in other countries. When people like you call your self a 'patriot" and express such options is sad and counter productive.

    October 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  8. Ted

    Maybe we're all looking past the real problem. Maybe Marshall McLuhan was right: Electronic media has caused us to devolve into a tribal culture. People are able to immediately connect with like minded people, and the feedback reinforces the "tribe's" position. Other groups' positions are ridiculed and vilified to the degree that discussion and compromise become irrelevant. Sound familiar? Sadly, democracy and neotribalism appear to be fundamentally incompatible. Wow, how do we get out of this bind?

    October 11, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Daniel Daronda

      Great comment! We need to switch off Fox News and AM radio permanently, and start looking into the mirror..............at ourselves......... what a superb way for all of us to become less tribal, less racist, and start working on turning around our sinking country, AS A TEAM, no matter what our skin color, or our tribal affiliation.......... either we learn to swim together, or we all sink together.......... modern day Syria is a good example of a country wherein the people (and especially the Government!) did not have the wisdom to learn how to swim together......... 🙁

      October 13, 2013 at 2:16 am |
  9. Janiffa Rexha

    Sounds like a Dwight Eisenhower comment!....seriously insightful comment!!!

    October 11, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  10. Karl Marx

    USA is almost a wrap.

    October 12, 2013 at 4:39 am |
  11. Daniel Daronda

    Thank you Fareed Zakaria! You keep marching right on, my friend........ tell us Americans the truth, tell us exactly how bad it is, tell us how far we have sunk........ because it is ONLY when at least ONE human being, dares to tell us Americans where we have gone wrong, and how screwed up we really are, that we can see the truth, face it, and begin to turn ourselves around........... just like the Beatles once said, we need to "Get back to where we once belonged".......... do we Americans have the courage to turn our country around? Do we have the integrity to agree with Fareed? Do we have the strength to make it happen? That is really the question............

    October 13, 2013 at 12:14 am |
  12. captain b

    Tea party has its radicals as does any other party. What we all need to do is to hold OUR representatives accountable for their action/inaction. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but I have been to several tea party events and found a broad spectrum of folks ie professors, grad students, carpenters, janitors etc all at the same place: We have a government which gives away more that it takes in. You and I could not do that for long, and we all know the end result of that way of living.
    We need men and women in our government who will do what is right for the country regardless of party affiliation. I am tired of the expression "the vote as expected was along party lines!"
    It is time to throw out ALL of the self-serving, egotistical, party bobble heads and get the country moving. The reality is both parties are guilty of wreckless abuse of the powers which we gave them. they appear insulated or just plain deaf to the americans who put them in office.
    Where are the statesmen and women who understand that they are the servants of the people?

    October 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  13. dudley

    Takes two to have a fight.
    Gerrymandering run amok.
    Now that the parties have been allowed to draw the districts any way they want, there is no concern about being voted out if you act like a putz, being party first, nation second.

    October 13, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  14. chrissy

    Amen @ Daniel! Very fitting that Ted Cruz's campaign contributor is Verison don't you think? Hes been granted unlimited talk time. Too bad he has nothing to say that is worth listening too.

    October 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
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