But the push for democracy is absolutely giving terrorist organizations the ostensible legitimacy of political actors. To the extent they come to control governments as they now do in the quasi-sovereign Palestinian territories and as they may soon do in Lebanon (or even a partitioned Iraq), it gives them considerable privileges and immunities that they would not have as sub-national organizations. ~Andy McCarthy, The Corner
Everyone who reads this blog will know that I am not entirely enthusiastic about democracy. Let’s say I have my doubts. I am not excited about it in its ancient form (although as a small city government, you could do worse, and the ancient is a lot better than what came later), and certainly not in most of its modern forms. I am waiting for some transmodern democracy, which should be interesting just for the sheer strangeness of it.
But someone will have to explain to me how elections where people we like get elected lend real political legitimacy and elections for everyone else, such as, say, Hizbullah, Hamas and Ahmadinejad (what a trio of the terrible!), lend them “ostensible legitimacy.” Fraudulent elections, of the sort that put a Yushchenko in power, lend only “ostensible legitimacy,” because the result itself is in doubt and has been tampered with.
Free and fair elections, according to every fan of democracy I have ever heard speak on the matter, are the fundamental source of legitimacy in the democratic age. I may find this an appalling development and long for Maistre to come in and save us from the madness, but how is it that people who believe in this sort of thing can play a double game where some election results count and others only give “ostensible legitimacy”?
Now you might argue that Hizbullah forfeited any such legitimacy when it started launching rockets at Israeli cities, but why is there this sense that competitive elections legitimise a gangster like Djindjic or a fraud and Stalin-lover like Saakashvili but give only “ostensible legitimacy” to Hizbullah and Ahmadinejad? Now what is the lesson to take away from all this? Not just that democratists are inconsistent and only believe in democracy when it is very convenient–that is a joke so old that even I don’t want to tell it anymore–but that if you encourage people whose values you abhor to vote you are going to wind up with elections that legitimise abhorrent values and despicable people, and then you are in a bit of a pickle as guardian of the glorious democratic ideals.