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But the most worrisome contemporary challenges to liberal democracy emanate from the heart of the democratic world itself. Within the historically most powerful and successful Western democracies — in North America and Europe — democratic performance has become deeply deficient. The US and the EU, the two geopolitical epicentres of the free world have experienced a series of destabilising financial crises over the past decade; are increasingly mired in political paralysis and polarisation — in which their respective democratic institutions struggle to fulfil citizen expectations of effective governance delivery and voters are increasingly alienated from mainstream political parties — and face a number of daunting, long-term, structural socioeconomic challenges. These include growing popular concerns over migration and terrorism; low economic growth rates and falling incomes; ageing populations; looming entitlements crises; and (in the case of European states) demographic decline.

At the same time, voter turnout, levels of political party-membership and public trust in governments and courts are all declining in America and Europe. Citizens of the supposedly most affluent and stable democratic countries on earth are increasingly voting for “anti-system” political parties and candidates, driving what one commentator describes as “the astonishing rise of illiberal movements of the far Right and far Left”.

Trumpism, and its sister manifestations in Europe, may in fact be symptomatic of a more fundamental erosion in popular attachments to the most basic values and institutions undergirding modern liberal democracy. Indeed, citizens in supposedly stable democracies in North America and Western Europe have become deeply cynical about the value of democracy as a system of government, are less engaged in politics, and are more willing to entertain the notion of living under authoritarian rule. In a recent study published by the Journal of Democracy, for example, only 30 per cent of Americans born in the 1980s thought it was essential to live in a democratically-governed country, as opposed to 75 per cent of those born in the 1930s or 50 per cent of those born in the 1960s. Similarly, in a survey conducted in 2011, nearly 25 per cent of Americans in the 25-34 age group expressed the view that having a democratic political system is a “bad” or “very bad” way to “run this country”, and a full 32 per cent believe it would be better to have a “strong leader” who does not have to “bother with parliament and elections”. These sentiments, which are especially prevalent among younger age cohorts, not only carry reduced Western commitment to protecting the liberal international order, but portend of a real danger of democratic de-consolidation in the erstwhile most affluent and stable democracies in the world.

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January 18th, 2017
4:01 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with Lorna. This article is somewhat confused. Firstly followers of Trumpism (whatever that is)are not turning their backs on the values and institutions underpinning liberal democracy, although the author does not actually specify what these are, but simply voted for the wrong candidate in his eyes. Whatever you may think of Trump he won a free and fair election, and just because he panders to certain voters fears to suggest he is a danger to democracy is a falsehood. Secondly Amichai seems to then go on to conflate the Trump voters with a growing number of younger citizens 'more willing to entertain the notion of living under authoritarian rule'. I am pretty sure these young people are not Trump supporters, but have grown up being told by the left that the 'gentle authoritarianism' of institutions such as the EU are a better form of government than liberal democracy within a sovereign state. People are voting outside the 'system' because they no longer trust the political elite and are sick of being patronised by them if the only alternative is a Trump of a party of the extreme right or left then that's where they will turn.

December 1st, 2016
8:12 PM
Good comment Lorna

Lorna Salzman
November 26th, 2016
2:11 AM
A close comprehensive look at the history of democracy, with only one flaw: depicting opposition to 'free trade" and immigration as regressive anti democratic populism. But this is typical of liberals (including George Soros) and institutions like the EU who cling to their own kind of "gentle"authoritarianism" in order to promote what are actually anti democratic policies as well as trying to persuade us that opposition to unlimited unvetted immigration is pure xenopohbia and racism. It is this arrogance that pushes people into the arms of the populists and right wing. The author of this piece has regrettably joined forces with the neo liberals in denigrating genuine public concern over terrorism and globalization policies written by and for the corporate elite. The Democrats lost the election in the US because in the end they couldn't fool the American electorate about what they stood for.

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