Damon Linker posted an intriguing column recently at The Week. Its argument: “Democracy isn’t dying. Liberalism is.” The world may be entering an era of anti-liberalism achieved by largely democratic means, Linker contends.
We frequently hear President Donald Trump is violating the norms of American democracy and that he is a threat to its existence. Linker is saying that Trump may be more of a symptom of a illiberalism, akin to the 2016 “Leave” vote in the Brexit referendum, than a threat to democracy. Add to that the recent victory of Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition in Australia – and the list goes on across Europe. This is not democracy under siege.
Liberalism “includes the protection of individual freedoms,” Linker writes, “an independent judiciary ... and the rule of law, including professional civil servants and bureaucrats who are guided by expertise and a sense of public spiritedness.”
Opponents of free trade and globalization, “along with the practical consequences of those policies, including high rates of immigration, economic growth in cosmopolitan cities with high levels of education, and economic decline in lower-density and rural regions,” are beating liberalism at the polls.
“How liberals might do a better job of persuading increasingly hostile voters to give them continued, or a renewed, chance at power is anyone’s guess,” Linker says. “What’s not mysterious is how counter-productive it is when liberals respond to popular opposition by lashing out in condescension at those who withhold their support.” That could take the form of calling Trump supporters “deplorables” or insisting that they are too dumb to realize liberalism is better for them – ensuring, Linker says, more hostility to liberalism when people mark their ballots.
Liberalism needs a better spokesperson.