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“Anti-Democracy” Just Means “Something the Regime Doesn’t Like.”

“Democracy” is the new “revolutionary.”

In the old Marxist regimes, anything that displeased the ruling communist regime was said to be contrary to “the revolution.” For example, in the Soviet Union, national leaders spoke regularly of how the nation was in the process of “a revolutionary transformation” toward a future idealized communist society. Many years after the actual revolution and coup d’état in Russia in following the collapse of Tsarist Russia, the word “revolution” had “positive connotations and was considered a source of legitimacy in official ideology.”

Revolutionary became a synonym with “a thing we like,” and it’s no surprise that a 1952 Soviet legal manual lists “counterrevolutionary” activities as among the “political crimes … deemed generally dangerous crimes against the order of the state.” Moreover, in the early 1950s, when Mao Zedong launched new efforts to consolidate communist power, he called the effort a “campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries.” Other regimes adopted similar practices as well. Castro’s Cuba frequently launched investigations and campaigns against “antirevolutionary” dissidents and Ethiopia’s Marxist governments in the 1970s described domestic opponents as guilty of “anti-revolutionary crimes.”

Anything that was deemed “counterrevolutionary” or “antirevolutionary” was assumed to be an awful thing that was a threat to the reliably vague notion of progress toward the fulfillment of the alleged revolution. The vagueness of the term was, of course, an advantage from the point of view of the regime. Consequently, to be a counterrevolutionary required nothing more than to be guilty of thoughtcrime by subscribing to heterodox views in regards to the current ruling party.

Thus, to be a counterrevolutionary was simply to be opposed to the regime, regardless of one’s actual ideological views. This is why communist Emma Goldman (a bona fide revolutionary) could be denounced as “anti-revolutionary” for expressing doubts about the virtues of the Soviet regime. One’s support for actual revolution was irrelevant, and “antirevolutionary” could simply be defined or redefined as whatever the regime found objectionable at any given time.

In the year 2022, we find the word “democracy” serving a similar role in political discourse. President Biden has delivered two major speeches this year on how “democracy” will supposedly be abolished if Biden’s opponents win. Last week, former president Barack Obama solemnly intoned that if Republicans win in Arizona, “democracy as we know it may not survive.” Indeed, this has become something of a mantra among leftwing politicians and their media allies. One writer at Salon chastised voters for daring to let their votes be influenced by economic concerns when “democracy is under threat.” One New York Times headline bemoaned the apparent reality that voters don’t seem interested in “saving democracy” when it’s all so supposedly clear that “democracy is in peril.”

So why are so many voters ready to allegedly “trade democracy for cheap gas“? The answer probably lies in the fact that most voters can see what is obvious: the only thing actually in peril is the Left’s version of democracy, which is an anything-goes-including-rampant-voter-fraud model for voting in US elections. Moreover, the Left wants a federal takeover of elections which in the United States have always been at least moderately decentralized. Instead, the “prodemocracy” camp wants federally enforced election regulations prohibiting limitations on voting for aliens, dead people, and frauds. If the Left does poorly in this election, that’s a lot less likely to happen.

Any attempt to limit fraud—such as requiring identification for voters is denounced as “antidemocratic.” Indeed, nothing better shows this than the Left’s complaints about the fact that some law enforcement officers have monitored polling places. As one Georgetown University bureaucrat put it, allowing law enforcement personnel to guard ballot boxes might “intimidate” some people, and sends the message that voter fraud actually occurs. This, she tells us, is “abhorrent.” But at the core of this complaint is simply an aversion to the idea that the presence of police might scare some people off from ballot stuffing and other forms of fraud.

Ironically, by this way of thinking, to be “prodemocracy” is to not care whether or not the voting process is fraudulent. Thus, just like the term “revolutionary” under the old communist regimes, the terms “democratic” and “democracy” in the US today cease to have any meaning and really just mean “what our side likes.”

After all, most reasonable people would conclude that democratic institutions exist whenever there are regular elections and generally universal suffrage for citizens. This is clearly the case in every state of the Union. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of countries that the Left calls “democracies”—France, Germany, Iceland, etc—have voter identification requirements, checks against double voting, and similar means of preventing fraud. In the United States, the Left calls all this “antidemocratic.”

The actual details of what it means to be prodemocratic or antidemocratic don’t actually matter when it comes to political discourse. The word “democratic” is an emotionally loaded term, and essentially code for “politically legitimate.” All that really matters is to call one’s allies “democratic” and to denounce the other side as “undemocratic.” In America today, to be labeled “democratic” means one has the approval of the ruling regime. Those who are labeled “undemocratic” are those who, like the “counterrevolutionaries” of old, have been deemed—rightly or wrongly—threats to the status quo.

This article is republished courtesy of the Mises Institute.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons-Dollyllama, CC BY-SA 4.0

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  • Avatar
    Rick Gordon
    November 10, 2022, 12:14 am

    The Republicans seemed to ignore the Democrat attack regarding ‘democracy’. The same could be said regarding the abortion issue. In both cases, the absence of a GOP response gave both issues to the Democrats. In my opinion, the biggest demographic where both stood tall were younger voters – especially women – but both genders probably ran away from conservative candidates.

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  • Avatar
    Tionico
    November 10, 2022, 5:45 am

    Regrding the integrity of the vote… anyone else remember the first "democratic" vote that took place in Iraq some time fter we inveded them? they developed a foolproof system that would ONLY allow ny person to vote ONE TIME. And this side the Puddle we all cheered them on as they, men and women alike, raised their right index finger….. dipped in a solution of gentian violet and impossible to miss or misread. The ONLY way anyone could vote twice would be to get their right index finger cut off after they voted the first time. I am convinced the incidence of this approached VERY closely to zero. No ID< no mail in ballots to get collected, no double voting, no voter rolls. Likely the cleanest election any living person watched. And they were sO PROUD to have had the priviledge of casting their vote. I also well remember the delight evident everywhere here in the US that one counry were finally having a CLEAN and FAIR election. How many over here thought that was a wonderful and righteous event…… and are the same ones been opposing anything even hinting at voter ID, proof of citizenship as a conditioin of registering, clearing the existing voter rolls of sometimes hundreds of thousands of likely dead, moved on, and disqualified due to criminal history, duplicates, one name seven different addresses, one address 238 different names registered there…..
    we were SO proud of the Iraqis with a fair election for the first time, but steadfastly resist any moves to make ours even a tenth as clean and fair.

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  • Avatar
    Jon athan Quimbly
    November 10, 2022, 8:51 am

    "Any attempt to limit fraud" -except that’s not what’s happening, here in 2022. Recall that in election 2020’s aftermath there were hundreds of claims of "rigged elections" where "millions" to "tens of millions" of votes were alleged to have been "snuck in" by Democrats. Republicans had just as much access to completed ballots for recounting and verification as Dems. Republicans filed dozens of cases.

    Republicans lost every single case of claimed election fraud. Every one. Fair and square.

    So, what next? I know, let’s appoint Trump "true believers" to the role of election commissioner / secretary of state, so that when election disputes arise, they can be ruled in favor of Republican candidates before they ever reach the courts!

    Done. Republican governors and legislatures have taken this task upon themselves, and at least 12 states elections are now helmed by true believers.

    Your little binary fantasy of "revolution vs counter-revolution" is as clumsy a case of redirection and reframing as I’ve ever seen, regarding democracy in 2022.

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  • Avatar
    Rick Hendricks
    November 10, 2022, 2:17 pm

    When I attended school, we said the "Pledge of Allegiance" every morning. One of the phrases "… and to the republic for which it stands…" show that we are not a democracy and that we are a republic. More precisely, we are a constitutional republic.

    Being a republic means that we do not have monarchs, and we elect people to represent us. This is the crux of the problem: our elected representatives no longer represent us. Further, they are becoming totalitarian in nature, telling citizens what they can think, say, and believe. Our representatives cry, "You must believe the narrative, or you are antidemocratic."

    This all sounds reminiscent of 1930s Russia and Germany.

    So much for democracy.

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  • Avatar
    Richard Rider
    November 10, 2022, 4:06 pm

    VARIATIONS OF THE FOLLOW COMMENT ARE MY RESPONSE TO THE LUDICROUS LEFT WING "END OF DEMOCRACY" ASSERTIONS:

    Just when we thought Bill Maher was finally off his hard drugs, he does this humorless monologue (below) asserting that if the GOP wins the House and Senate in this midterm election, democracy will flat-out END in America in the 2024 Presidental election. He lays out with UTTER certainty how this will happen — a gigantic nut-ball conspiracy theory that is a total fiction.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKVBvooZ2c8

    It’s the bizarre mantra that the Democrats are pushing that if you don’t vote Democrat in this election ("the most important election ever"), democracy will end in America. It’s a ludicrous assertion.

    But as noted overseas WWII Democrat political consultant Joseph Goebbels once said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself."

    I won’t convince any of these fools that they are wrong, but I WILL give them to opportunity to make BIG BUCKS off their mindset. I hereby offer 100 to 1 odds that if the GOP wins the House and Senate, democracy will continue right through the 2024 election. The bet MUST be escrowed, and the minimum wager is $1,000.

    Google me. I’m easy to find. I’m serious. I’ve got the cash ready. My sucker bet wagering window is open 24-7.

    Come on Bill Maher ET AL — put up or shut the **** up.

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