| Liberal democracy is a fusion of two logics; the democratic, which values popular sovereignty and the liberal, which values individual rights and securities. There is no way to guarantee that decisions reached through democratic procedures will not put individuals rights and securities under threat. Hence it’s a necessary feature of liberal democracy that it’s held to be legitimate to establish limits to popular sovereignty in the name of protecting liberty.
The tension between liberal and democratic logics is ever-present but it’s irreconcilable. Some contingent articulations of liberal democratic values can deal with the tension in ways which are contingently more effective than others. The tension can be provisionally stabilised but it can never be overcome.
Leaving this antagonism unrecognised obscures the fundamentally conflictual nature of democratic politics. Focusing on the possibility of rationally grounded consensus—as is the aim of Rawls and other deliberative democrats—hides the fact that such a consensus is a temporary hegemony; an expression of liberal dominance. The democratic paradox is at the heart of liberal democracy and any political discourse which ignores it is deeply flawed.