Everybody, it seems, has an explanation for how a racist, bigoted, misogynistic pathological liar became the president-elect of the United States. Inevitably the focus becomes attaching blame for this farcical calamity.
Some blame the dead-ender, political illiterates who supported Trump. Others blame the media that gave Trump such a free pass. Hillary gets a lot of blame. Obama too. The Democratic Party that has lost touch with the public, it gets blamed. To these and more my take is "all of the above." Without the benefit of a thorough post-mortem, a real muscle and sinew exploration, it can't be helpful to play this game. That can only lead to scapegoats.
Timothy Garton Ash, writing in The Globe, says the focus has to be on defending liberal democracy, not just in America but across the West.
So now the challenge is in plain view: We face the globalization of anti-globalization, a popular front of populists, an international of nationalists. “Today the United States, tomorrow – France,” tweets Jean-Marie Le Pen. It will be a long hard struggle to defeat them, at home and abroad, and we may now have to look to Germany rather than America for the “leader of the free world.” But defeat them we will.
In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, we have something very close to fascism. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is rapidly crossing the line between illiberal democracy and fascism, while Viktor Orban’s Hungary is already an illiberal democracy. In Poland, France, the Netherlands, Britain and now the United States, we have to defend the line between liberal and illiberal democracy. In the United States, we shall now witness the biggest test of one of the strongest, oldest systems of liberal democratic checks and balances.
What we see in all these nationalist populisms is an ideology that claims that the directly expressed will of “the people” trumps (the verb has already acquired a new connotation) all other sources of authority. And the populist leader identifies himself – or herself, in the case of Marine Le Pen – as the single voice of the people. Donald Trump’s “I am your voice” is a totemic populist line.
We must, therefore, brace ourselves for a long struggle, perhaps even a generational struggle. This is not yet a “postliberal world,” but it could become so. The forces behind the popular front of populism are strong, and traditional parties are often weak, and such waves are not reversed overnight.
Ms. Merkel made by far the most dignified response I have seen to Mr. Trump’s election. “Germany and America,” she said, “are tied by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and human dignity, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States, Donald Trump, close co-operation on the basis of these values.” Magnificent.
The phrase “leader of the free world” is usually applied to the president of the United States, and rarely without irony. I’m tempted to say that the leader of the free world is now Angela Merkel.
What a time for a generational struggle to defend liberal democracy. This authoritarian populism is indeed a challenge and to more than just liberal democracy. It arrives as a massive "threat multiplier" to complicate and worsen every other challenge now facing mankind from climate change to nuclear proliferation and just about everything in between. One essential factor to responding to every one of these challenges is social cohesion out of which collective will arises. Now that we've embarked on a world of social division, popular will becomes angry and incoherent. Oh dear.