Nothing is easier than blaming the crisis of democracy befalling us on those who profit from this crisis: Trump, Le Pen, Putin, Petry, Hofer or Orbán. But the fact that people like them are able to benefit from the diminishing confidence in democracy is above all a symptom, a sign of ill health. The causes of the current passion for dismantling democracy are more deeply rooted.
The perception that democracy had triumphed over the last, supposedly most modern form of obliterating liberty – namely communism – was an illusion. The lure of the authoritarians is still alive. It has only changed its shape since 1990.
Today, it’s no longer an anti-capitalist ideology that is challenging democracy. Instead the challenge facing democracy is that confidence in it is being undermined by accusations that it’s become an ideology itself, a kind of arrogant religion that doesn’t need to justify itself to anybody. There is a tacit agreement among all those who are currently mobilizing broad sections of the electorate, from Sweden to Hungary, to nurture this suspicion. The one sentence they would all subscribe to is this: We have pushed the whole issue of democracy and liberalization too far.