It’s not easy being a committed democrat when your side loses an election.
In 2009, I found myself in a curious place. Granddaughter of a suffragette, daughter of an independent woman … I was raised to vote because women before me had lived in virtual slavery without a right to make their opinions heard.
I believed in the democratic process, but I hadn’t voted for Barack Obama and for the first time in my voting history, I was faced with a President I really couldn’t agree with on almost every issue. I considered 90% of his policies to be immoral, destructive and tyrannical. In the past, I might disagree with a president to a lesser degree, but I would always fall back on the idea that I had voted in the election, so had given my consent for them to govern. I might protest a specific policy, but I accepted the outcome of the election.
Barack Obama changed that. He was such a disaster for freedom-loving people like me that I began to doubt the efficacy of voting.
This wasn’t a new thought — though it was new to me. In 1962, philosopher Richard Wollheim published an interesting article entitled “A Paradox in the Theory of Democracy” in which he pointed out an inherent contradiction in the concept of democracy.
Wollheim postulated the following scenario:
A committed democrat who sincerely believes that social policy should be determined by a democratic process. votes on whether a particular policy should be adopted. He is expressing his personal belief on the matter. After the votes are counted, the democratic process indicates that a policy inconsistent with the one supported by that person should be adopted.
Imagine the cognitive dissonance. She must now simultaneously hold:
- Since the policy was determined by the democratic policy, it should be adopted.
- Since the policy conflicts with her personal belief, it should not be adopted.
Barack Obama campaigned on raising taxes on everyone except the poor, expanding the welfare state, and hijacking health insurance. These are all things I opposed for a long time before I ever heard Barack Obama’s name. I voted for Sarah Palin (she was a GREAT governor for Alaska, and I think she would have been at least as entertaining as Joe Biden as Vice President). She lost, but having participated in the election meant I had given my consent to be governed by Barack Obama. Because I am a registered nonpartisan, I pay no particular homage to any political party, which I feel allows me to stand against his individual policies, but I couldn’t stand against him being the president, because that was determined by the democratic process.
Except …standing against 90% of his lunatic policies became exhausting because he was the lunatic-in-chief who kept on tyrannizing every segment of the population that disagreed with him. I actually joined the Tea Party peacefully waving signs and shouting slogans in a park where we had a permit to be. I wrote a lot of letters. I blogged. I began to feel the hopelessness of changing the juggernaut of idiocy in DC and, by 2012, I had reached the place where I began to doubt the efficacy of voting. I cast a protest vote for a 3rd party at the last minute. I repeated that process in 2016 and actually spoke up for that choice, but the rest of the country still only saw two choices, so now I REALLY doubt the efficacy of voting, so much so that I might not vote in 2020.
I do understand that it’s not easy being a committed democrat when a highly unsuitable candidate wins the election. I was there with Barack Obama BOTH times. Donald Trump campaigned for President of the United States on issues like building a wall along the southern border, at least temporarily banning Muslims from the United States, and imposing tariffs on products manufactured overseas. The Democrats marching in the street now claim they firmly believe in democratic governance, but they strongly oppose all of Trump’s measures and believe that their adoption is immoral and will be disastrous for the country. They voted against him to avoid these policies. Sadly for them, the democratic process made Donald Trump President. If you believe in the democratic process, he is your president whether you voted for him or not, which means … regardless of your personal opinion against his policies, you consented to his election.
If a committed democrat truly believes in democracy, she should support the process that made Trump president, not march in the streets, throw rocks through windows or file lawsuits against implementation of those policies. She can grumble on the Internet and/or write letters to her Congresspeople asking them not to vote for Trump’s policies, but really, she should wait until the next election and hope for a result more in line with her personal beliefs. When she cast her vote, she agreed to abide by the outcome of the election … not only when her candidate won, but if her candidate’s opponent won instead.
Life isn’t easy for those who truly believe in the moral legitimacy of democratic governance. It’s a little easier if you’re a committed nonpartisan. I never gave my consent to a political party to implement any broad policy agenda on my behalf. I maintain my independence that way. Still, I didn’t go out and throw rocks through windows and beat people up when I disagreed with Barack Obama, and truthfully, no one on my end of the political spectrum did.
I can imagine the cognitive dissonance experienced by the life-long advocates of democracy who are presently attacking President Trump for doing precisely what he said he was going to do during the campaign. The will of the people was expressed through the electoral process that chose Donald Trump as president. Because I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that winning more votes in a popularity contest doesn’t really give anyone the authority to express their will over the objections of others, I’m not all that concerned that “my” side didn’t win. I didn’t vote for a winning side. I voted to satisfy those women who came before me, knowing that my choice would lose and not caring. It was actually relieving in a way to have no ownership in the outcome of this election. I wonder how I would have felt if Gary Johnson had come closer to winning. I guess we would know whether my loss of commitment to the democratic process is real or just a symptom of ennui.
Still, there are all those folks who proudly shout “democracy” accusing Trump of undermining democracy by acting in accordance with the will of the people. Without irony, they proclaim the virtues of democracy, but now declare that Donald Trump is not their president.
If you voted, you agreed to accept the outcome of the election. What you are doing right now is standing against democracy, but not in a good way. If you want to join philosophical anarchists in opposing voting for a less violent system, check out Patriot’s Lament on KFAR 660 or their website. That’ll get you started. But don’t march through our streets proclaiming you’re an advocate for democracy while calling for a coup. That isn’t democracy.