The real threat to liberal democracy is not the law. It’s the ideological void in its own heart

The rise of the right was made possible by a crisis in liberal democracy. Photo: Composite prospect

Over the past decade, mainstream politicians around the world have struggled to cope with the far right. But so far too much of this battle has been versus nativists rather than for Liberal democracy.

It is high time to develop coherent and comprehensive liberal democratic responses to both the anti-political policy of technocracy and the ultra-political policy of populism. While most political traditions bowed to the “market” gods over the last two decades of the last century, they increasingly bowed to the “voice of the people” (homogeneous) over the first two decades. decades of this century. The 2020s require a
new approach.

What I hope all traditional political traditions will do is rediscover the strengths of liberal democracy, and also think more carefully about the best balance between majority rule and minority rights. We must learn to defend liberal democracy by explaining why it is the best political system we have right now. Reclaiming the term “minority” is crucial in this debate. It should not apply exclusively to “ethnic” or “religious” groups. People need to understand that anyone can be – or become – a minority over time, and that only liberal democracy will always protect your basic rights, whether you are in the majority or in a minority.

Likewise, we must rethink the limits of the liberal democratic system. Criticism of policies and the way things are run is an integral part of this. But some positions attack the root of the system and therefore cannot be accommodated there. For example, while closing borders to Muslim immigrants can be morally odious and virtually impossible, it does not in itself undermine the liberal democratic system. Taking rights away from citizens because they are Muslims or of another religion, that is the case. Likewise, the weakening of the independence of the media or the judiciary attacks the foundation of liberal democracy and should be non-negotiable for any party – of any persuasion, in any circumstance – if it wishes. be a valid part of that system.

Beyond that, each political tradition is expected to rethink its own ideological core in the new decade. The task is to unearth the intellectual foundations of the past and apply them to present and future challenges. This does not only concern social democracy, which is furthest from its origins. Christian democracy and conservatism may have performed better electorally, but they have often achieved this through programs inspired by the radical right, and not on their own turf.

What does Christian democracy look like in a largely secularized Europe with a growing Muslim population, albeit still relatively small and marginalized? What does conservatism mean after decades of neoliberal hegemony, sometimes softened by social democracy? How is liberalism recovering from the Great Recession? And how should Europe evolve, after decades of integration without vision, and in a world of conflicting Russia and the less and less invested United States?

What about my own proud but struggling tradition: social democracy? It remains anchored in socio-economic interests, but these are today less easily linked to a specific class than before. With a growing (and often educated) “precariat” alongside an increasingly diverse working class, social democracy must abolish its traditional model of one-class solidarity, which rested on the patriarchal white family. And with a new automation revolution around the corner, he should abandon the illusion of full employment, reestablish his ties with unions and seriously discuss the various options for a universal basic income. All of this requires a fundamental overhaul of the meaning and value of full-time employment. Moreover, at least on our continent, none of this can be achieved without fundamental reform of the European Union.

All of this will not happen in 2020, and maybe not in the whole of the 2020s. I just hope these late rethinking can begin. In many ways, the real crisis in liberal democracy today is not the integration and normalization of the far right. It is the ideological void at its heart. It is the hollowed out condition of “mainstream” parties that allows the garish, loud and rich to dominate politics. It is time to re-politicize politics.


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