Skip to main content
Disloyal Opposition Shames Democracy

Photo by Kyle Cleveland on Unsplash

Democracy is founded on competitive elections. Some win, some lose. The losers accept their loss and hope to win the next time. They often do, because those in power at any given time do not fix the elections. Incumbents can lose.

That’s the theory.

The best Democracies come pretty close to it:

  • Western Europe
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Uruguay
  • Costa Rica

Others can be called democracies, though they have significant shortcomings:

  • The United States
  • India
  • Chile
  • Mexico
  • Argentina
  • South Africa

Biden has to walk the fine line between tolerating objectionable speech and responding forcefully to actual sedition.

Some countries call themselves democracies, but their ruling parties have so tilted the playing field that the opposition has little chance of winning, even if they’re allowed to compete:

  • Turkey
  • Hungary
  • Philippines
  • Brazil

We’ve just had an election in the US: President Trump lost, Joe Biden won.

Trump will not concede the election: notwithstanding losing over fifty lawsuits, he asserts wild conspiracy theories to explain how he really won.

Had he won, he would likely have moved the country more toward the last category, which has been called electoral authoritarianism: there are regular elections, but the government does what it must to make sure it always wins.

Biden’s victory blocks that gambit, for now. 

He will ty to return us to the status of a real democracy, with a level playing field for political competition. But the Republicans aren’t playing that game anymore. They compete in order to regain the power to end the game. 

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

They not only oppose the Biden administration but also to the democratic system itself. For them, democracy only exists if they win, and they intend to make sure that they do. 

That is the electoral authoritarian agenda.

The most famous disloyal opposition was in Weimar Germany after World War I: both the Communists and the Nazis participated in elections and won substantial support, while both were dedicated to eliminating the democratic regime. In the end, the Nazis succeeded.

Chile after the election of Salvador Allende in 1970 confronted a disloyal right-wing opposition actively (if covertly) supported by the United States. In the end, Allende was ousted, giving way to the long Pinochet dictatorship.

Other cases of disloyal oppositions have happier endings.

France and Italy after World War II confronted strong Communists parties that, it was feared, would bring their countries under Soviet domination if they gained power. In both cases there were enough votes for the center-right and center-left to maintain a functioning democracy while marginalizing the Communists.

France, in the 1950s, also successfully confronted a right-wing disloyal opposition, touched off by de Gaulle’s decision to settle with the Algerian National Front, in defiance of thousands of French settlers in that country. Facing substantial violence, de Gaulle mustered overwhelming political and military support to repress the rebellion.

The US of course confronted its own disloyal opposition after the election of Lincoln in 1860. Only civil war could defeat it.

What can Biden and supporters of democracy in this country do, confronted with a disloyal opposition headed by a psychotic demagogue who has (without evidence) convinced many millions of his supporters that he was cheated?

The Republican Party has become a disloyal, far-right party, so there is no longer a moderate, center-right party. Biden and the Democratic Party are the only organized alternative to Trump’s electoral authoritarians.

Biden needs to foster the formation of such a party, in hopes that it could draw off some present-day Republicans who voted for Trump reluctantly, and other Republicans who voted for Biden and then voted Republican down-ballot. Such a center-right party could displace the Republicans as the main opposition to the Democrats.

After Trump is finally gone, the nature of charismatic leadership suggests that no other leader will match his hold on the Republican base. So the long-run prospect might look better for the reestablishment of a viable center-right party, whether called Republican or by some other name.

impeachment unavoidable

Biden must also walk the fine line between tolerating objectionable speech and responding forcefully to actual sedition. A democracy need not tolerate those who would destroy it.

John Peeler