Media Doesn’t Get It in Their Hype on Fragility of Democracy
Posted on December 7, 2016
Representative democracy is a shaken institution world-wide. Anti-democratic right-populist forces have prevailed in Trumpism, Brexit, and the Italian reform defeat, and are advancing in many European countries, while tyrants are rolling back democracy in Turkey and the Philippines. Earlier, the Arab Spring had failed nearly everywhere except Tunisia.
And now the pundits are saying that democracy is far less stable as an institution than we had all imagined.
What is unstable is the combination of democracy, growing inequality, regimes loosely described as “neoliberal” (i.e governments that do not actually do much for ordinary people), and a weak and feckless progressive left. If you mess up people’s lives for years and years and the left has no effective answers or no effective organizations, then of course people are going to turn to the extremist right to shake things up.
This is not exactly the same as “chickens coming home to roost.” In fact, the billionaires who were gaining from neoliberalism will continue to gain from rightwing extremism. (e.g., look how quickly after the election Trump started aligning his revised positions with what the Koch brothers had wanted all along.)
The real moral of the story is this:
A democracy is unstable unless it finds a way to limit inequality. Or to put it another way: it is impossible to be a democrat but not a fiscal egalitarian.