Contesting the populist challenge to liberal democracy


The transatlantic alliance – which for decades has underpinned global stability, fortified democracy, and safeguarded the West as we know it – is under severe strain, and risks terminal decline, notes Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, and President of the European Parliament’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament.

Europe has no choice but to act given that an ‘America First’ approach to foreign policy “renounces the traditional US role as the world’s main defender of liberal democracy,” he contends. “Right-wing populists and authoritarian regimes – in Europe and elsewhere – will continue seeking to exploit the resulting global leadership vacuum. The only way to protect the liberal world order is for other powers – beginning with the EU – to step into the breach,” he writes for Project Syndicate.

Last week, Pew Research published a “political typology,” a schema (right) of nine voter categories it had invented, on the basis of a national poll of political attitudes, to capture the ideological state of the nation, notes Nicolas Lehman. Pew has been doing this every few years for three decades, modifying the types every time. On this round, the big finding was that the country’s political polarization continues; the Republican base and the Democratic base live almost entirely separate lives, geographically, socially, and ideologically, he writes for The New Yorker:

But Pew’s data also made clear why both parties are having trouble holding their coalitions together. “Country First Conservatives,” who look a lot like the explanation for Donald Trump’s having mowed down his primary-season opponents last year, are anti-immigration and isolationist, while “Core Conservatives” are not. “Opportunity Democrats” don’t dislike corporations as much as “Solid Liberals” do, “Disaffected Democrats” mistrust government, and members of the “Devout and Diverse” category usually vote liberal but are deeply religious.

Elections are about more than counting votes. They reveal peoples to themselves. They are democracy’s mirror. And what we see is often disconcerting, argues Brookings analyst William A. Galston (left):

Throughout the West, democratic governments are struggling to maintain a postwar order premised on prosperity and economic security. Since the onset of the Great Recession, established center-right and center-left parties have failed to meet that test, opening the door to the far left and the populist right. From Hungary to France to Poland (long regarded as the poster-child for postcommunist democratization), illiberal populism is on the rise…..

The Embassy of Canada and

The National Endowment for Democracy

invite you to the fourteenth annual



William Galston

Ezra K. Zilkha Chair in Governance Studies and Senior Fellow

Brookings Institution

The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

6:00 p.m.

The Embassy of Canada

501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC

Reception to follow from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

RSVP by November 24

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