It's a notion of small-d democratic politics in which the purpose of an election is to allow a passive, unruffled people to ratify choices which have already been basically made for them -- a perspective that shines through in this headline of the week:
- Politics Can Get in the Way of Keeping Papers Secret
Secrecy is the normal state of affairs. Politics is an imposition.
(Which is also the kind of democracy they're trying to bring to Iraq -- the Iraqis will be allowed to elect Chalabi, once all the leaders who have actually been living in Iraq have been coopted, bought off, or suppressed).
Lincoln held an election in the middle of the Civil War, against a candidate who was openly calling for an armistice that would have left secession as a fait accompli.