Monday, January 02, 2017

Agenda for 2017 - Defend Democracy

Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, writes that progressives will have their hands full in 2017 but no challenge is greater than defending democracy, in the US and abroad.

There should be no mistaking the dangers democracy confronts. The rise of far-right parties in Europe, the authoritarian behavior of governments in Turkey, Hungary and Poland, and the ebbing of center-left and center-right parties that were part of the postwar democratic consensus would be troubling even without the rise of Donald Trump. His emergence should sharpen our concern. “A right-wing demagogue in charge of the world’s most influential repository of democratic values,” wrote Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, “is a devastating fact.”

Trump’s disrespect for the conventions of democracy, his willingness to flout rules long accepted by presidents of both parties and his praise for assorted strongmen, particularly Russia’s Vladimir Putin, all point to instincts and attitudes very different from those of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic.

...Also alarming is the closeness of many of Trump’s top aides, including national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, to extreme movements in Europe that have brought back themes buried since the 1930s and early 1940s.

Trump’s aides emphatically denied that Flynn had met with Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, as Strache had claimed. But there is no denying that many on Europe’s far right, including the Austrian party founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, are open in declaring their sense of empowerment from Trump’s victory. Bannon, for his part, has spoken favorably of the “women of the family Le Pen,” meaning Marine Le Pen, the presidential candidate of the nationalist and anti-immigrant National Front in France, and her niece, Marion Mar√©chal-Le Pen.

...supporters of democracy have their own challenges to confront. As John Judis wrote in his insightful book, “The Populist Explosion,” the rise of populist parties, including authoritarian ones, signals that “the prevailing political ideology isn’t working and needs repair, and the standard worldview is breaking down.”

The liberal democracies have, indeed, been guilty of a certain complacency in confronting the economic challenges of globalization. Mass immigration — some of it bred by the Middle East’s brutal wars — has created discontents in nearly all the leading democracies. And small-d democrats have gotten out of the habit of offering robust philosophical defenses of a form of government they took for granted.


Rural said...

I spent the last 7 or 8 years defending OUR democracy from the Harper regime at Democracy Under Fire, now it seems we must broaden our scope to the U.S. and elsewhere. I not sure I have the fortitude to do that Mound, but will support those that do, including yourself!

The Mound of Sound said...

I was struck by the remarks of Van Jones a few days ago proclaiming that, for the Democrats, the Clinton era is over. If the Dems intend to survive, they have to leave the centre-right and become a progressive movement again. If not, they die.

This goes beyond American electoral politics. The neoliberal order, to which our own parties faithfully cleave, is over. The promise was never met and ordinary citizens are fed up with what it has wrought, in some cases illiberal democracy, ever growing inequality and wage, wealth and opportunity stagnation. Government of the boardroom, for the boardroom, by the boardroom no longer cuts it. The days of government, Liberal or Tory, reprising the role of a chamber of commerce must end.

Mulroney may have planted the seed but it was the Chretien era in which neoliberalism was nurtured, rooted and took hold. I was once as fond of Chretien as most Liberals but he looks much different in retrospect. JC did yeoman's duty arresting Canada's fiscal crisis but that was at the expense of progressivism, not its furtherance.

Harper, of course, with his unshakeable belief in the economic ideology he learned, neoclassical economics, was in thrall to neoliberalism. His once BFF, Tom Flanagan, told a gathering on Saltspring Island that Harper eschewed vision. He was an administrator, a technocrat, a petit fonctionnaire.

Trudeau the Lesser, sadly is remarkably similar to Harper in his approach to governance in the chamber of commerce model. He must be wracked by cognitive dissonance. Ramping up bitumen exports is the key to Canada's green future, that sort of rubbish. All his grand talk of First Nations collaboration,"social licence," and evidence-based decision making informed by scientific knowledge has gone up in smoke - that was briefly blown up our arses.

This Trudeau is devoutly neoliberal and only in the most farcical sense can he be said to be progressive. Just as Harper sought to remake the Tories in the model of the Republicans, first Ignatieff and then Trudeau transformed the Liberals into a centre-right party akin to the Democrats. Most Liberals seem to be fine with that but I think most parties' faithful are motivated mainly by whether their team can grab the brass ring. Policy is a distant priority. We saw how shamelessly New Dem "true believers" were content to abandon the left for Layton and Mulcair's promise of forming government.

The Mound of Sound said...

Our nation, like every other country, faces challenges bordering on ordeals that will grow more intractable as the century unfolds. This is a time when we urgently need a restoration/reinforcement of liberal democracy focused on rehabilitating social cohesion among Canadians. That means weaning ourselves off destructive economic ideologies (yes, economics is a "social science" - opinion, faith, belief-based) and rebuilding an informed public capable of voting in their own best interests which are too rarely pursued by our political caste these days.

Just as environmental, economic, political and social storms are gathering on the horizon, we need to grasp that, among nations, Canada is one of just six that are best positioned to absorb the blows of what is coming. We have terrific advantages that other nations can only envy but - and here's the thing - these advantages will be lost if we don't harness them in time.

Neoliberal rule will do nothing for us in that respect if only because its dominant commercial focus (GDP; perpetual, exponential growth) is inherently short-term and pays scant attention to what needs doing for the next generation or generations after that. This is the "posterity factor" which has been given short-shrift ever since neoliberalism took hold. It was no accident that posterity was purged from political planning and policy because it represented a fetter on our ability to pillage the future. We have made it our policy to offload the consequences of our actions onto future generations and we deserve to be despised for that.

And so I have abandoned political movements that place party fortunes and electoral advantage ahead of the interests of Canada and our people. That includes Trudeau's party.

Anonymous said...

The Washington Post is the neoliberal establishment's bastion.
How dare this piece of rag to lecture about "defending democracy."
What Democratic Party in US need to do is to expose and jettison the neoliberal plutocratic cabal leading their party while masquerading as "democrats."

Purple library guy said...

Gotta love these guys: "Mass immigration — some of it bred by the Middle East’s brutal wars — has created discontents in nearly all the leading democracies."
And why did these brutal wars start? Um, well, no reason in particular, just sort of happened, you know?
The likes of the Washington Post is the reason why there has been functionally no democracy in the US for some time now.