There used to be a time when students were taught that the American system was not a democracy but a representative republic. Democracy is mob rule and mobs can be very fickle, especially under stress. The system of checks and balances in the system is to slow the mob so that the will of the people can mature. The people may not get what they want initially, but after a series of elections the will of the people wills out and we get public policy that reflects the general consensus.
Obviously, that is nothing like reality. One part of becoming a dissident is accepting that this stuff you learned in school is at best naïve and at worst a lie. The two-party system that we have is designed to prevent ideas outside the consensus of the two parties from entering the political debate. It also works to prevent the ruling class from having to address the concerns of the people. The “democratic process” is a fig leaf used by the ruling elite to subdue any resistance to their rule.
Now, the right side of the political class does not think about this as those people are generally selected for their stupidity. Their job is to wave their pom-poms at the suburban peasants while the system celebrates itself.
The view from the ruling class:
The left side, on the other hand, does think about it and they have a different definition of democracy. Their definition of democracy begins with what they think the will of the people ought to be if it is completely informed and allowed to blossom.
You see, you can only have democracy when the people are equally informed and allowed to fully participate in the debate. In order to do this, the citizens must fully understand their own interests and to do this they must come to understand their purpose within the framework of society. Until you can fully know yourself, you cannot fully participate in the democratic process. As a result, most people are tricked into voting against their interests or the interests of society.
One part of defending democracy is to prevent this from happening. The defenders of “our democracy” are always seeking to shape the public space so that the people can discover their true purpose and act on it through the process. This cannot happen if there are people out there spreading disinformation or misinformation, so one job of the democracy defenders is to root out the bad actors from the public square. You cannot have democracy if everyone is allowed to speak.
What is important here is that the defenders of democracy are not defending a process but the idea of the true will of the people. Since the process can be corrupted, it can result in undemocratic results, like the 2016 election.
In a true democracy bad people like Trump and his voters do not exist, much less win elections. In order to defend democracy, the defenders of democracy were forced to use any means necessary, even undemocratic ones, to stop Donald Trump.
Now, the defenders of democracy assume certain things about the purpose of society, its natural end point, which means they assume certain things about the purpose of the people who will one day populate the fully flowered democracy. The most important foundational item is the assumption that once everyone is fully democratic and fully understands her purpose, everyone agrees on the purpose of society. This means politics withers away as there is nothing to debate.
Since the defenders of democracy understand all of this, the presence of people who oppose them means society is not democratic. The larger project requires that these people be removed by any means necessary. As long as these enemies of democracy are standing in the way of progress, the defenders of democracy have a right and an obligation to do what is required to defeat them. It turns out that you can only reach true democracy through authoritarian means.
That last bit is critical. The defenders of democracy assume that once the conditions for democracy are firmly and unquestionable in place, the people in the system will have no choice but to realize their true purpose as democratic people. At that magical point, politics collapses as all moral disputes are gone. There is no need for elections and the rule of law because everyone at all times agrees on everything. There is no coercion because there is no dissent from the moral order of democracy.
This is why there can be no compromise between the people who see democracy as a process and those who see it as a moral conclusion. The former group not only tolerates dissent but sees it as proof the system works. The latter group sees dissent as proof the system is failing. This contrast in moral visions makes it impossible for the two camps to coexist in the same society.
If you want a democratic society, you can never tolerate people who want a democracy.
All is proceeding to Karl’s plan, comrades.
Seriously, Marx thought communism would first be established in the US, as it was the most advanced capitalist country and therefore the closest to the withering away of liberal democracy.