Majority rule depends upon a certain kind of unanimity. In order to have differences of opinion on political matters that can be decided on the basis of a majority opinion, it is first necessary to have common opinions that permit the entire society to unite behind the decision of a majority.
In the absence of such opinions, majoritarian politics fails. This is the basic meaning of the Gettysburg Address. In it, Abraham Lincoln says “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived can long endure.”
The cause of the American Civil War was the inability of the Southern states to accept a constitutional majority’s election of Abraham Lincoln. The Southern states rejected the constitutional majority and voted by extra-constitutional majorities to “de-ratify” and leave the United States.
A nation dedicated to a principle of equality—and all democratic republics in one form or another are so dedicated—in the absence of an unspoken unanimity, tends to resolve fundamental political differences not by majoritarian politics but by separation, by secession. Remember that Wilsonian notions of plebiscite were used to divide Europe in the 1930s before it was conquered in the 1940s.
Today, most important regimes are conspicuously—if in some cases only superficially—liberal democracies. Exceptions to this are few in number: China, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and the lesser Arabian states, to name several. As a result today comparisons of regime type are difficult.
But in Lincoln’s time, the United States was the world’s only democratic republic, and it was failing spectacularly. The alternative form of government was kingship, and based on the violent failures in the United States and the Republic of France, kingship was seen to have some rather obvious advantages.
The fundamental problem of kingship is not secession but succession. In a kingship, sovereignty resides in a single person and the transmission of sovereignty is determined by hereditary rules. In a democratic republic, on the other hand, sovereignty is somewhat ambiguously resident in a people.
Here lies a fundamental problem of unity. You may be familiar with the joke about end-stage Communism: You have one cow. The state shoots your cow.
Given the rise of Marxist elements in the Democratic Party, it is not that funny.
What follows is not a joke. If you have one cow and cut that cow in two, you do not have two cows. As Louis XVI of France could attest, kings, unlike peoples, cannot be divided into two parts. There is never an issue of divided sovereignty in a kingship. There are only issues of usurpation. But this generally is not true of a democratic republic.
As I noted, in a democratic republic sovereignty resides ambiguously in a people. But what makes that people one people? The word “nation” comes from birth. The root of nation is the Latin nasci or nat, meaning born. The word “country” comes from the Latin contra meaning against, originating in the idea that the land was the opposite of the city, like people refer to Connecticut as “the country” as distinct from New York City, “the city.” The word country thus identifies political unity with land or geography. The word “patriot” comes from the Greek patrios meaning of one’s fathers.
In America, we once shared a land (stolen land!) and once shared fictional fathers, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Lincoln, identified in the Gettysburg Address as “our forefathers.” But we were never actually related to “our forefathers.” Rather, the unity of the people of the United States depends on the opinions of the Americans.
We are passing through an election in which a principal theme of the Democratic Party’s campaign has been to cast an incumbent president and his 70 million supporters as alien. Not as part of one people, hotly contesting ruling and being ruled in turn, but as a malignancy. Trump and his followers have been maligned by Democrats as Russian assets, akin to Hitler, fascists, racists, white supremacists, all deplorable and irredeemable. Our common forefather’s images have been desecrated with Democrats’ implicit support.
The frightening thing is the depraved sincerity of the Left. Robert Reich suggested that a “truth and reconciliation” committee be formed to reeducate Trump’s key supporters. Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes (D–N.Y.) asked over Twitter “Is anyone archiving these Trump sycophants for when they try to downplay their complicity in the future?” Twitter answered back, Yes, we are. Democrats do not intend to rule and be ruled in turn. They intend—with stunning candor—to master their fellow countrymen.
In The Laws, Plato notes that there are some things the city must sing with one voice. There must be common agreement as to what it means to be an American, to have a deliberative politics, and to maintain a free nation. People cannot trust their lives, their families, and their welfare to majoritarian politics without unanimity as to their character as one people. Democrats have all but abandoned that understanding.
When that is abandoned, majoritarian politics becomes at best a pursuit of selfish interests, and at worst, the politics of revenge.
As part of effecting their revenge, Democrats, together with the tech monopolies and the media, have declared their candidate the winner in advance of any common agreement, concession by their opponent, or by the constitutional process of certifying and counting electoral votes in Congress is completed. Had they waited for one or the other (the former only coming after the latter in this mail-in tainted election) they could have appealed to the unanimity necessary for republican government.
The election—and their uncivil hope for revenge—is complicated by the obvious possibility of fraud. The possibility remains that their narrow and blinkered opinion of their victory will be overturned by the discovery of fraud and a remedy for that fraud through legal processes.
And where do you suppose we will be then?