The totalitarian democracy of Stacey Abrams

“Democracy has failed in Georgia,” said Stacey Abrams in what hardly could be called a concession speech after a ballot recount confirmed that the Republican candidate, Brian Kemp, had defeated her in Georgia’s gubernatorial contest.

Of course, democracy did not fail in Georgia. The voters made their voices heard at the ballot box, and Ms. Abrams did not like what she heard.

The late Israeli historian J. L. Talmon called such behavior “totalitarian democracy” or “messianic democracy,” which found its origins in the French Revolution when the extremists arrogated to themselves the unfettered right to interpret the will of the people. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about this when he observed that those who made the French Revolution always spoke in the name of the people, without in the least having bothered to consult them.

Talmon’s theme was that in totalitarian democracy there exists a general will, an abstraction that is known to elites who divine what the people really want and assume the right to speak in the name of the people. In totalitarian democracy, the elite are not the people’s representatives but their messiahs.

Abrams stands squarely in the long pantheon of those who claimed not only to understand the will of the people but also to embody it. This pantheon includes the French Revolution’s Robespierre, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, Argentina’s Juan Peron, and Lenin, among others.

The emergence of such a twisted view of democracy is the greatest internal threat to the unity of the nation.  It is seen in the brutal arrogance of those who think that Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States because of Russian bots on Facebook or the “flawed” nature of the Electoral College.

Has a Facebook posting ever changed an opinion?

Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency would the Electoral College have come under the derision of her perpetual and insufferable whining about losing the presidential contest to everything from a flawed system to Russian bots to the intimidation of the female vote by the dominant “patriarchy?” The answer, of course, is obvious.

Like Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams arrogantly and unabashedly knows that she is the embodiment of the general will even when the people have spoken otherwise.

Georgians and the rest of America should breathe a long sigh of relief that Stacey Abrams lost. Her philosophy of the electoral process is not that of liberal democracy where the people select their representatives. Her philosophy is that of an arrogant elite that stand ready to speak in the name of the people without having to consult them.

Democracy has not failed Georgia. Stacey Abrams and those like her who refuse to hear the voice of the electorate have failed America. The sinew of our democracy can only be stretched so far into the oblivion represented by her totalitarian mindset.