Dear editor,

Democracy vs. autocracy. What do these terms really mean?

Defined by Webster’s dictionary, democracy is “a government by the people, usually through elected representation,” compared to autocracy, “government by a single, absolute ruler.”

Citizens choose candidates to appear on ballots through caucuses and primaries in democracies; and are elected through free, fair, secure and non-fraudulent elections, followed by a peaceful transfer of power. In an autocracy, those in power choose candidates, often with pre-determined outcomes, and may refuse to relinquish power, governing for life or passing control onto family or another select group.

Democracies value an independent justice system, while autocracies control the courts and can use them to prosecute political enemies. All citizens in a democracy are considered equal under the law. Autocracies pick and choose who will be brought to justice and how they will be treated.

In our democracy, there are checks and balances between the three government branches – legislative, judicial, executive. In an autocracy, the executive branch wields unchecked power.

The press and citizens can openly criticize the government in a democracy, consistent with guaranteed freedom of speech. In an autocracy, the press is suppressed through coercion or a state-run press that flatters those in power; dissent is not tolerated. Those who do speak out are imprisoned or killed.

Democracy is often messy with debate and compromise from multiple perspectives and can look like it’s not always controlled. In an autocracy there is only the perspective of the ruler who dictates outcomes. Many times, an authoritarian leader will promise control, or at least the allure of it.

Elected officials in a democracy realize that complicated problems require complex solutions. Autocrats promise easy, unrealistic solutions to difficult, long-standing problems. Problems are often blamed on a single source or group of people.

Because I value the United States of America as a democracy, I will vote accordingly. I will never vote for a candidate who has contempt for our Constitution, declares they will be a dictator on day 1 of their administration, nor will I vote for a candidate who admires dictators and spouts Russian misinformation. There are enough autocratically ruled countries in the world. I will continue to work to keep the USA the shining example of democracy it has been for 240 years.

Nancy Kolb of Webster

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email [email protected] or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.