The Fall of Liberal Democracy?

Italy elected a far right-wing government on Sunday, pretty easily too. If this doesn’t alarm you, let me remind you of Italy’s history with fascism. It would be outrageous to compare Giorgia Meloni with Benito Mussolini at this point. Again though, given Italy’s history with fascism, it’s worth keeping your eye on how things unfold.

It would be fair to point out that left and center-left political parties have struggled in recent elections in Europe, the U.S., and around the world. The U.S. just went through Trump obviously, and the GOP is favored to take back Congress this year. While the new Labour Leadership in the United Kingdom is cleaning up the mess Corbyn left them, they’ve been out of power almost a decade. The post-Brexit Prime Ministerships of May and Johnson both struggled with how to handle right populism. French Socialists have been relatively uncompetitive against President Macron, while the hard-right has been his chief rival. Even as Netanyahu struggled against an indictment, the Israeli left has been unable to win a stable majority government. South Korea elected a certifiable “meninist.” And of course, there’s Brazil. Liberal politics, and even just democracy in general is struggling. It would be easy to simply question if liberal democracy in the west simply can’t meet the needs and wants of the people it governs. There’s evidence it’s not.

On the other hand, let’s not pretend we haven’t seen large scale protests against the governments of Russia and Iran this week. Or in Hong Kong and Mainland China in the past year. Or mass starvation in Somalia, right now. One could argue that government in general, regardless of its form, isn’t satisfying the public right now.

One could very well argue that we’re living on a knife’s edge right now. There’s a world where Putin is gone, Ukraine remains free, Iran liberalizes it’s social policies, western center-left parties clear out the antisemite crowd, and our global institutions survive the populist push against them. There’s also a world where Trump and Putin are shaking hands at the White House in 2025 (or someone worse than Trump) on a deal to effectively stop aiding Ukraine, while fascists and dictators world wide work to consolidate power in a world we thought was changing for the better, just a few years ago. The likely reality is somewhere between the two, but let’s not pretend that’s a given.

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