In his Op-Ed piece in the 5/24/14 online New York Times, Shadi Hamid presents an interesting quandary: the illiberalism of Islamic religion conflicts with democracy, at least as that term is understood in the more liberal West. While he hints that the political clout of right-wing Christian sects in America represents a similar practical threat to the “inalienable rights” of some subset of American citizens, Hamid’s concern is more philosophical. How does one reconcile the humanitarian assumptions about equality, seemingly fundamental to democracy as we see it, with the political mechanism of democratic rule?
A democratic mechanism for selecting regimes is just that: a mechanism. The composition of the majority is not relevant: angels or devils, the team with the most members wins the tug-of-war. That Hamid would need to somewhat obliquely suggest that our sense of democracy is in fact a value-laden ideology using majority rule as its mechanism says much for how deeply imbued in our thinking that ideology is. Perhaps the implication for us is to beware our current polarizations, since we can expect no quarter from the opposing team if they win the game.