Across the affluent, established democracies of North America and Western Europe, the last years have witnessed a meteoric rise of figures who harness a new level of anger that is quite unlike anything liberal democracies have witnessed in a half-century, writes Yascha Mounk (left), a lecturer on government at Harvard University and a Carnegie Fellow at New America:
They too promise to stand up for ordinary people, to do away with a corrupt political elite, and to put the ethnic and religious minorities who are now (supposedly) being favored in their rightful (subordinate) place. They, too, are willing to do away with liberal political institutions like an independent judiciary or a free, robust press so long as those stand in the way of the people’s will. Together, they are building a new type of political regime that is slowly coming into its own: illiberal democracy.
As documented by Mounk and his fellow scholar Roberto Stefan Foa in a recent article in the Journal of Democracy, Americans have become steadily more open to anti-democratic, autocratic ideas, The Washington Post reports:
Recent decades have seen precipitous declines in trust in nearly every major U.S. institution. Still, many of us assumed that, underneath it all, faith in democracy itself held steady — that we are angry at so many entrenched institutions because they have fallen short of cherished democratic ideals.
But their meeting illustrates something that many Western politicians and “realist” thinkers find difficult to understand: that ideas and ideology sooner or later trump “interests.” If Turkey were still a democracy, Erdogan would be looking to his Western allies to help him push back against Russia. But contact with the West also means contact with Western ideas. Dependence on the West means dependence on states that believe in the legal norms which Erdogan wants to repress, states that might support the people Erdogan wants to lock up.