The world is run by people who run things. Liberalism eliminates the principle of authority and puts the individual and his desires at the center of concern, so it makes it important for people who run things to be able to claim that the people at large have agreed to what they’re doing—they approved the particular measure, or the basic principle. or the decisionmakers, or anyway they could vote everybody out and change the constitution if they’ve really got a problem.
A joker in the deck is that if the people are confused or misled and make mistakes of fact, or if they think thoughts or have motives they shouldn’t, then what they think and do doesn’t count and shouldn’t be given effect. That’s why opposition to Obamacare didn’t matter—the people were being stupid, or irrational, or racist, or they were dupes of the Republicans, so there was no reason to pay attention to them.
As liberalism develops and its demands because broader, more detailed, and more at odds with the way people ordinarily look at things, that kind of situation seems likely to become more common. The limiting case, of course, would be that of a people’s democracy, in which popular approval is purely ritualistic.