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.
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 Maréchal-Le Pen.
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.