As far as I know, a democratic system must allow (almost) all the people and groups to benefit from political-power. So, democracy makes sure that political-power is fairly distributed among all the parties, groups and people so everyone has a voice in the society. At least, this is how I understand democracy. Sorry politic is not my major.

I guess, a democracy should support all the peaceful activities with any believes.

But it looks impossible. I can give you two examples:

  1. If during the cold war between US and Soviet union, some American citizens wanted to peacefully change the US regime to Communism then, should the democracy support them ?

  2. Or, let's say, an Islamic group raise in US which is against the "First Amendment to the United States Constitution" and they would like to make the who country Islamic. Should they be able to benefit from political-power ?

Let's imagine that in both of my examples, all these two groups are committed to peaceful activities. Does the democracy still support them ? Even if their activities lead to a regime change ?

Although, both my examples are imaginaries, I would like to know, does a stable democratic system support radical groups in real world?

  • 1
    I don't think that what you say your question is and what you are really meaning to ask are the same thing.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 24 at 0:01
  • 3
    "radical" is not the opposite of "peaceful": communism is not violent by itself; on the other hand the US army for example is not exactly peaceful by nature, that doesn't mean that it's "radical". Also the examples show that OP doesn't know what are the current "radical" threats in the US: the far right groups are considered much more dangerous than Communist or Islamist terrorism by the FBI.
    – Erwan
    Jun 24 at 0:53


(I understand your question as support within the country).

Most political scientists believe that it's beneficial to include all groups in the political process, rather than reject them and potentially radicalise them further. Radicalism is not a sin per se; violence is. Universal suffrage was quite radical not too long ago.

Participating in a democratic process openly has a trend to moderate people: after all, it's an art of finding a compromise.

In a stable democratic society, radicals occupy fringes of the political spectrum (almost by definition), and consequently play a fringe role, making them "safe" in a sense. Nevertheless, they have a power to bring certain problems to public attention or discuss them at a different angle in parliaments, which can be very important for a healthy debate.

A few random "real world" examples, without going into much details how "radical" each group really is:

  • French Communist Party, having about a dozen members in each house of the French parliament.
  • AfD, having a noticeable presence (>10%) in the German Bundestag.
  • A significant chunk of Israeli Knesset, including such varieties as communist/socialist and islamist arabs.
  • I think what fringe groups are considered "safe" varies a lot. While Germany considers the far-right AfD "safe", there are counter-examples like outlawing of the KPD and persecution of thousands of their members because they were perceived as "not safe".
    – tim
    Jun 24 at 7:36

Limited to political activity within a given country (i.e. not manipulating another country) this is a somewhat strange question. What do you mean by "support" and what do you think "democracy" means?

  • support You can advocate, peacefully, to worship Satan, as long your advocating does not break any laws of the country. There is no need to "support" you. The only obligation of a democracy is not to suppress your legal political expression.

  • democracy. This means rule by the people. Once more than 50% of the voters agree with you, well, you are the democratic majority. Until then, you would just be another party with some agenda that other people don't agree with. No more, no less.

  • limits on democracy. Most well-run democratic countries have some form of formally-guaranteed rights, looked after by high court(s), that limit what laws even a democratically-elected government can put in place and what actions that government can take.

For example, Canada's prohibition on gay marriages first got annulled by an Ontario Court. Brown vs Board of Education decided separate but equal wasn't equal. These decisions struck down laws originally passed by a democratically-elected government.

So, in your example, who cares about Sharia law? If, and that is a big if, Sharia Law did not violate any guaranteed rights and existing laws, then in theory, it could be adopted if a majority of voters thought it was good idea, making it, by definition, democratic.

Some qualifiers:

Of course, common sense didn't stop state lawmakers in a number of US states (least likely to be very Muslim) to pass grandstanding state laws forbidding Sharia law.

The US also strenuously, especially in the 1950s, suppressed Communism, using all sorts of over the top and not very democratic means, during the McCarthy period. But Communism on its own never got much appeal so that wasn't really needed. (note that watching out for espionage by Communist sympathizers in security sensitive positions is something entirely different).

Communist governments don't have a very good track record of allowing voters to decide to switch back to a non-Communist government through free elections. So that could make their election a somewhat special case.

Last but not least, though I don't know the exact details, Hitler managed to transform a sizable, but still minority, vote, using dubious means to declare a state of emergency and then essentially abolish democracy.

So, under certain conditions - cough Jan 6th cough - democracies can stop functioning as democracies. But in normal conditions your question doesn't make that much sense.


TLDR; depends on what you consider radical.

For something to happen in a democracy, by definition more than 50% (or more depending on the exact laws of the government) of the population/representatives must support it. So basically, this question can be derived to “if something is supported by the majority of the population/representatives is it considered radical”

The Oxford dictionary definition of radical is

(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

So yes, democracy does technically support radicalism (if of course, the majority of the population supports it)

this only attempts to answer the bolded question, as the other questions are either variants of that one or POB

  • You often don't need 50% of the population to support something, just 50% (or sometimes more) of the elected representatives. And in some cases you don't even need 50% of the population (or even 50% of the voters) to elect 50% of the representatives. For example, with the electoral college in the US a number of states representing a minority of the overall population can elect the president (and probably a majority in the senate too).
    – JJJ
    Jun 24 at 0:20
  • @JJJ I agree that you don’t need 50% of the population, only 50% (or more) of the representatives, but I disagree with the second point, because the USA is a republic. I’ll edit the first point in soon Jun 24 at 0:38
  • 1
    @JJJ, you don't even need that for "something to happen". Consider a hung parliament subject to a swing vote by a very minor party or crossbenchers. In such fairly common scenarios, demands of these "minor" actors can have enormous consequences.
    – Zeus
    Jun 24 at 1:38

Does a stable democratic system support radical groups in real world?

Sure it does. See Operation Cyclone, whereby the US supported the Mujahideen against the USSR.

  • 1. The US isn’t technically a democracy 2. You don’t explain/prove why you believe the Mujahideen are/were radical. Jun 24 at 0:48
  • It’s not totally clear, but I think they’re asking about radicals within their country.
    – divibisan
    Jun 24 at 0:57
  • 7
    @EkadhSingh once we get to technicalities about whether the US is a democracy, I cease to be interested in the question.
    – Allure
    Jun 24 at 1:32
  • @Allure my first point can be disputed, but my second point still stands. Jun 24 at 1:43
  • 2
    @EkadhSingh I consider that rather self-evident. What makes you think it isn't?
    – Allure
    Jun 24 at 3:33

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