Does the democratic process trump democratic institutions?

Lately I’ve been reading The Economist, one of the world’s premier magazines.  I don’t particularly like it, but it seems to be the magazine of choice for policy wonks, so I knew I needed to become acquainted with it.  I appreciate their obscure articles on far-flung places around the globe.  However, I think they shamelessly editorialize and hide behind cute monikers such as "Lexington" (American affairs), "Charlemagne" (European affairs), and "Bagehot" (British affairs).  Apparently the writers and editors want the full weight of The Economist’s reputation behind its editorializing rather than letting one writer put their own name on the line when they skewer someone like new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  The Economist has strong opinions, and it lets its readers know it.
One standard belief of the magazine is that the democratic process trumps democratic institutions.  That is, if a dictator is legitimately elected and then proceeds to rig up the political system to suit his own purposes, that is more palatable than prohibiting said autocrat from running for office and subduing democratic institutions.  Preserving democracy in and of itself is more important than upholding democratic institutions.  Do you agree with this contention?  Is it preferable that democratically-elected Venezuelan President be allowed to asset control over Venezuelan public institutions, including the legislative and judicial branches, and the bureaucracy, strategic industries, and the press?  Or is it preferable that the Thai military leadership stepped in to forcibly remove the previous, duly-elected prime minister under the pretense, true or otherwise, of preserving democracy?  While neither is desirable, which would you prefer?  The Economist would choose the former.  I’m not sure I buy it.
  1. Robert

    It has been sometime since I studied the Economist.  I’ll take a look, but I’m not sure I buy your characterization of their editorial policies. I know this if I want information that is quite reliable about some obscure locale The Economist is the place I’d look.

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