Liberal democracy under challenge.

Following Trump’s victory in the US Presidential elections the Guardian has been full of articles by concerned columnists about what a disaster this is. Dark days of racism and misogyny lie ahead. He won because he was a misogynist. As a result of ‘scheming’, ‘ignorance’, ‘a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues’. And so on.

The overwhelming impression is that these people – liberal Guardian columnists – don’t accept democracy. When it produces a result contrary to their ideologies – it is explained away on any other basis than the one it happened on – an election in which people went out and made their choices. Guardian liberals justify their foreign wars on the basis of ‘democracy’. They justify their privileged position in Western society on the basis of ‘democracy’. They are the class that guards democracy and ensures that – while private wealth is fine, the poor are ‘looked after’ (a profitable business in itself) and ‘fairness’ – usually deviant sexuality and strangely concocted families – prevails. But when democracy returns a non-liberal they are really flummoxed.

The violent riots in the US against Trump’s election are described  by the Guardian as ‘action’ carried out by ‘activists’. [1] A choice of words which is close to condoning violence.

As with the success of the Brexit (and let’s face it anti-immigrant) campaign in the UK liberals seem only able to pass judgement on their opponents. Their opponents are ‘bigots’, ‘racists’, ‘a basket of deplorables’, neanderthals. They deplore their backwardness and diagnose them with various conditions. But they don’t engage them with substantive arguments. And so, they lose elections.

All this gives the lie to the claims of liberals to be the champions of democracy. If you only accept democracy when it produces a liberal result that isn’t really democracy. The interesting question is how far this could go. If the West continues to see a rise in non-liberal parties attaining to positions of actual power through democratic means the liberals will be faced with a choice. Either they will have to accept democracy; something they will find hard to do. Or, perhaps they will find a reason to dispense with it. And there will be a Franco type solution. (Franco led a coup in Spain in 1936 against an elected leftist government and established a 36 year rule of a fascist state. The US accepted Franco’s undemocratic government because it saw in it a bulwark against the Soviet Union). [2]

It remains to be seen if the liberal world order is really being challenged by the rise of populist and nationalist movements, or if this is just a surface change. A lot depends on whether Donald Trump actually implements the policies he has talked about during his campaign. If there is a real directional change in the offing what will be the reaction of the liberals?


1. Guardian. Nov 2016. Report on anti-Trump ‘action’ in the US

2. WikiPedia article on Franco.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer