The title of William A. Galston’s “Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy” makes an excellent case that the populist surge of 2016 was rooted in the economic stagnation of the past two decades, Barton Swain writes for The Wall Street Journal:
The book’s theme is that liberal democracy is a valuable but fragile achievement that must be constantly guarded and maintained. That’s as true now as it was a century or two ago: Liberal democracy, he contends, has been severely tested many times before and, thanks to the efforts of conscientious citizens and public-spirited statesmen, emerged from those crises basically intact.
“The constitutional order has survived the no-holds-barred battle between the Federalists and the Jeffersonians, the Civil War, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the assassinations and cultural upheavals of the 1960s, and the security panic that swept the country after the 9/11 attacks,” writes Galston, a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group. “During the two world wars of the 20th century, both of which evoked national mobilizations, liberal restraints on government were weakened only temporarily. Freedom of the press survived the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s, the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917-18, and the clashes of the Nixon era. The ethos of individual liberty has always been a powerful countervailing force.”