Democracy is dialogue – honest dialogue between leaders and voters, between leaders and their parties, between leaders and their opposition and between leaders themselves.
A far cry from what passes for democracy in many countries today.
Then, along comes Borgen, a Danish television series, now streaming on Netflix.
Borgen is the nickname for Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish government.
It is also the title of one of the best televisions series I have ever seen.
In these times of global political angst when politicians are held in low esteem and politics are considered an occupation in which mendacity and personal gain trump any sense of public service, Borgen underscores democracy as honest and direct dialogue.
As a professor of international relations and strategic communications I am always fascinated by books, television programs, or films that show politics and strategic communications in a positive light.
The program depicts the improbable rise of a minor Danish political leader to the Prime Ministership of her country.
Brigitte Nyborg Christensen leads a minor centrist party yet achieves the highest political office through a combination of excellent communications skills, personal probity, and an ability to negotiate with a number of nefarious leaders of larger parties.
I will stop describing the program so as not to ruin it for those readers who have yet to watch it.
But I will explore the principles and values that the series brings out, and the lessons it can teach politicians as to how to pursue their craft, as well as voters with respect to what they should demand of political leaders.
From a political point of view, the ability to negotiate is based on one’s awareness of the other side’s bottom line, what they are willing to give up, what motivates them, and how they can react to different scenarios.
Prime Minister Nyborg is shown negotiating with the media, with the private sector, with national leaders, and international players.
In each situation, she demonstrates a keen knowledge of the other, a crafty but honest use of information and how intelligence, personal honesty, and charm can produce positive results regardless of how difficult a situation can appear at first.
From a communications point of view, Nyborg is at her best when she speaks from her heart rather than from talking points or a prepared script.
I always counsel students and clients to use their own words and share their own vision of the future without resorting to smooth slogans or prepare speeches.
The ability to connect with audiences depends on one’s sincerity, and this requires the judicious use of language and rhetoric to convince audiences that words come from the heart and not from the head.
Most importantly, the Nyborg character knows how to listen and learn rather than bully her way through any situation.
Her dealings with the media are a lesson in strategic communications.
She has a tremendous ability to pivot to message, manage interviews with brief but poignant answers, and smile throughout – dealing with journalists as if they are colleagues rather than enemies.
She refuses to use negative politics and avoids ad hominem attacks.
Mostly, however, she knows how to apologize and admit errors.
Throughout, she focuses on her values and vision for the country and refuses to sacrifice them for a pyrrhic victory.
Politics can be a noble profession, offering the voter the best that each leader has to offer all while considering the best possible series of policy options.
Unlike what we see in many corners today, political communications should be direct, honest, and friendly at all times, leaving the audience believing that the speaker reflects their hopes and aspirations rather than their fears and prejudices.
Democracy is dialogue, Borgen is a lesson for leaders as to how they should govern, and for voters as to what they should demand from their politicians.
A must watch for all.
Eduardo is a former deputy spokesperson for Ban Ki-Moon.
He is an expert in public diplomacy.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CEIM. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion. The content on this site does not constitute endorsement of any political affiliation and does not reflect opinions from members of the staff and board.