Totalitarian democracy is here intended to mean a system of government centred on the nation state and on the silent acceptance of its overall supremacism. This translates into:
– exclusive territorial sovereignty
The state arrogates to itself the topmost power over everything (e.g. rights of expropriation) and everybody (e.g. rights of imposition) within a specific territory. From the subjugation of native Americans to the destruction of the Chechnyan town of Grozny, exclusive territorial sovereignty has meant the crushing, by the central state, of any independent or slightly unruly entity.
– extensive decision-making sovereignty
The state, in a totalitarian democracy, has the power to intervene in relation to most of the aspects (almost the totality) concerning the life of individuals under its territorial jurisdiction. To justify this extensive power, totalitarian democracy has accepted the myth of the general will as the expression of the majority. It would be more correct to say that, through the myth of the general will, the individuals count for nil while the generals (i.e. the army élite, the political élite, the economic élite, etc.) count for everybody. The might of numbers (majority rule) becomes the right assigned to a few to impose wide ranging/all inclusive decisions.
Interestingly enough, totalitarian democracy can also be defined as “equality-oriented democracy.”
It is Mao Shoulong’s contention that “equality-oriented democracy recognises the value of freedom but holds that [it] can’t be attained by individual efforts,” but rather, by collective efforts. He argues that while equality-oriented democracy stresses the value of equality over individual freedoms, the reverse is true for freedom-oriented democracy, and in each case, the state will move either to ensure equality by limiting individual freedom, or to ensure individual freedom by giving up equality.
I believe that in the US, this is expressed in the obsession with rights granted by the federal government. Both left- and right-wing political animals focus on rights, claiming that the most important thing individuals can do is to act collectively to influence federal policy. Yet, in their practice and in their rhetoric, their most important collective act is to legitimize all government entities by voting. It doesn’t matter who they vote for; what matters is that collectively they voted, thereby contributing to the stability of society.
The philosophy of totalitarian democracy, according to Talmon, is based on a top-down view of society, which sees an absolute and perfect political truth to which all reasonable humans are driven. It is contended that not only is it beyond the individual to arrive at this truth independently, it is his duty and responsibility to aid his compatriots in realizing it. Moreover, any public or private activities that do not forward this goal have no useful purpose, sap time and energy from those that do, and must be eliminated.
As the saying goes, “If you didn’t vote, you have no right to complain.” That is, if you did not participate in the collective legitimization of government power, then they say you should have no rights before the law. Holding a private opinion is an implicit denial of political order, since it suggests the presence of thoughts not informed by collective wisdom.
By contrast, the person who voted and expresses his opinion is virtuous and powerful; he speaks and the engines of government obey his will, acknowledging his authority and wisdom. The presumption is that because he acted in conformity with the established structure, his other decisions and thoughts will follow suit. His political opinions will fit into the prescribed categories and will not be anarchic. They will lead to a rational conclusion of sorts, insofar as they can be expressed in public policy that is politically feasible.
On this view, the person who doesn’t vote, or who votes for a third party, is irrational and foolhardy. His opinions are by definition unreasonable, possibly even dangerous. At best, they can safely be ignored, like the mumblings of a catatonic drunk; at worst, they could be interpreted as a warning from a bomb-throwing anarchist.
What’s wrong with us? We are lazy, we are fearful, the establishment beats us down, we are ignorant, and we are defeated. Voting at least gives us the latent feeling that we are doing something, when we are really doing very little.
We righteously march down to our polling place, like good soldiers for the status quo. We vote. We get our little stickers
with an American flag that proudly proclaims: I VOTED. But when we vote for a member of the political duopoly, we are only voting for “Dee or Dum”.