I recently watched a debate about western democracy threatening suicide. One side was optimistic about the robustness of democracy and the ability of its institutions not to commit suicide but repair themselves; the other side, even though they called themselves optimists, looked at the same facts with a very different view. Mentioned were the authoritarian regimes and democratic countries which have become authoritarian. Mentioned also was why a clueless populist politician -Trump- was elected president.
I look at Europe and I see a European Union which seems quite out of touch with its people. The riots of the “yellow jackets” in France bespeaks of a disgusted people upset with the status quo. What is Brexit really but something similar. Britain will suffer when they pull fully out of the European Union but disgust with politicians out of touch with the citizenry is reaching an all time high. The rise of the populist, the rise of right-wing candidates, the authoritarian, who can get things done, is on the rise.
I would side with the optimists, since democratic countries at great cost have dealt with this in the past and triumphed in the end. But I find myself curiously siding with the pessimists this time.
Democratic countries need a democratic people to function properly. A people who respect the institutions and understand democracy is a slow process at its best, and will work within the system. I do believe generally people are getting tired of democracy. Let me throw in something from the debate:
“Now, thankfully, that’s something that my academic research speaks to directly. I’ve shown in the last years that the number of people who say it’s important to live in a democracy has gone down a lot. When you ask Americans born in the 1930s and 1940s how important it is for them to live in a democracy, over two-thirds say it’s essential to them. When you ask millennials — like in 1980 — how important it is for them to live in a democracy, less than one-third say the same thing. Even when you ask about straightforward or offer alternatives to democracy, the number of people who say that they are in favor of that has gone up.”