A crisis of liberal democracy? More of liberalism than of democracy

Kenan Malik writes: Welcome to 2017. It will be just like 2016. Only more so. This will be the year in which Donald Trump formally enters the White House, and Theresa May (probably) begins Brexit negotiations. It will be the year in which elections in Germany, the Netherlands and France, and possibly Italy, are likely to see rightwing populists gain ground, even triumph.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigration Party for Freedom(PVV) leads the polls and may help form the government in March. In France, in May, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National should reach at least the second-round run-off in the presidential election and may even win. In Germany, Angela Merkel could hang on as chancellor after September’s vote, but the far-right AfD will almost certainly have dozens of Bundestag seats.

And, so, 2017 will also be the year when fears for the future of liberal democracy will reach a new pitch. Such fears will, however, be only half-justified. Democracy is in rude health. It is liberalism that is in trouble.

Democracy does not require that the “right” result be delivered every time. The whole point of the democratic process is that it is unpredictable. The reason we need democracy is that the question of what are “right” policies or who is the “right” candidate is often fiercely contested. Donald Trump or Le Pen may be reactionary, and their policies may help unpick the threads of liberal tolerance, but their success reveals a problem with politics, not democracy. [Continue reading…]

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