The Monitor's View Rise of common folk in Brazil, India, Indonesia

New and popular politicians in the developing world's largest democracies come from humble origins. This trend reflects an 'equality of conditions,' or free societies that come to see dignity in each individual.

By

Reuters

Narendra Modi, the newly installed prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, India, is the low-caste son of a tea-stall owner.
 
Joko Widodo, the president-elect of the third largest democracy, Indonesia, was a furniture maker only a decade ago.
 
And Marina Silva, the most popular candidate in a presidential race in the fourth largest democracy, Brazil, grew up in poverty in an Amazon jungle town. As a child, she tapped rubber trees and taught herself to read at age 16.
 
Taken together, the humble origins of these three leaders mark quite a political shift in the developing world’s largest democracies. From their childhoods living on the fringes of society, they are now challenging each country’s tradition of governance by a ruling elite.
 
Their ascendancy represents what Alexis de Tocqueville noted about America’s early decades as a democracy – its “equality of conditions.” In the context of freedom, each individual is afforded the dignity and opportunity to rise up in society through achievement rather than entitlement. It was, after all, during Tocqueville’s tour of the United States in the 1830s that a "man of the people,"Andrew Jackson, was the country’s first “populist” president. A similar phenomenon may now be under way in India, Indonesia, and Brazil.