In the last decade, the European Union (EU), a bulwark of the liberal international order, has been subject to a high degree of turmoil resulting from various processes and crises and has witnessed the rise of national populism, of which Brexit was the main exponent. The leadership of the order was also impacted by the changes in the foreign policy of the United States of America (USA) effected by the Trump Administration. The USA, the United Kingdom (UK), and the EU are the leaders of the liberal zone of peace and if national populism structurally affects them the liberal international order could be seriously challenged. Among the various instances of national populism, Brexit remains a significant challenge to the EU and might greatly impact the liberal international order. By adopting an interpretivist methodology anchored in hermeneutics and in the methodological approach of emergent causation, this article seeks to understand how Brexit, as an internal challenge to the order, and the rise of China and other revisionist powers, as an external one, might influence the future of the liberal international order and great power competition. I argue that the news of the order’s death is greatly exaggerated, and that depending on British, German, and US variables, Brexit and the rise of China can either challenge or reinforce the liberal international order. Nevertheless, liberalism has a resilience no other political perspective has due to its innate ability for criticism and adaptation to change. Considering that the current liberal international order is a USA-led order, I argue that these are the two main variables concerning how Brexit might influence the liberal international order and how the order’s leading powers will adapt their strategies and foreign policies towards China and other revisionist powers.
Lá fora, ainda não foi desta que a onda populista se tornou tsunami.
Cá dentro, à esquerda, se um partido no governo, com um péssimo cabeça de lista, consegue este resultado, imagine-se o que não conseguirá nas legislativas se as circunstâncias sociais e políticas se mantiverem estáveis; à direita, se esta não for capaz de se entender, de gerar um projecto inovador e agregador, de concorrer a eleições em coligações amplas, dificilmente voltará a ser governo nos próximos anos – e não será com as lideranças de Rio e Cristas, ambos sem ideias para o país e com o carisma de uma couve de Bruxelas, e ignorando ou descurando o potencial da Aliança e da Iniciativa Liberal, que conseguirá conquistar o poder.
A grande vencedora, porém, continua a ser a abstenção, que, como é habitual, foi vilipendiada durante toda a noite por vários políticos e políticos-comentadores. A este respeito, e em modo telegráfico, saliento apenas que os sistemas partidário e eleitoral portugueses são bastante elitistas, fechados, pouco representativos da sociedade portuguesa e avessos à participação política. Podemos sempre colocá-los em perspectiva histórica e levar em consideração as condicionantes com que se defrontou uma recente e frágil democracia nos anos seguintes ao 25 de Abril de 1974. Mas passados 45 anos, temos partidos-cartel que dificultam a entrada de novos partidos no jogo democrático, não há a possibibilidade de candidaturas independentes à Assembleia da República, o mandato livre dos deputados é, na verdade, um mandato imperativo pertencente aos partidos que impõem uma profundamente anti-democrática disciplina de voto, não há eleições primárias nos partidos, não temos voto preferencial, não temos círculos uninominais e a tão propalada reforma do sistema eleitoral é mero ornamento de programas eleitorais de partidos que, obviamente, nunca irão abdicar voluntariamente de um sistema que lhes dá o poder que detêm e lhes permite continuarem a desdenhar a sociedade civil. A representação é cada vez mais ténue e a participação política para a generalidade da população, porque os partidos assim o querem, limita-se ao voto em listas previamente feitas pelas máquinas partidárias, ou seja, a uma mera ratificação do que os partidos decidem à porta fechada. É claro que há pessoas que têm pouco ou nenhum interesse pela política, mas colocar inteiramente o ónus da abstenção na generalidade dos portugueses, demitindo-se os partidos de quaisquer responsabilidades pelo actual estado de coisas, é, no mínimo, incorrecto e injusto. Por tudo isto, de cada vez que oiço da boca de políticos, em noites eleitorais, a ladainha da abstenção e do desinteresse dos portugueses pela política, apetece-me logo puxar da pistola. Isto é assim e continuará a ser assim porque os partidos querem que assim seja.
Yascha Mounk e Jordan Kyle decidiram realizar um estudo com base em dados empíricos e confrontar argumentos a respeito do populismo, tendo escrito este excelente artigo que reforça aquilo que muitos, entre os quais este vosso humilde escriba, têm vindo a defender, que o populismo, de esquerda ou de direita, é uma ameaça às democracias liberais, não um correctivo. Aqui fica a conclusão:
Since populists often thrive on anger about all-too-real shortcomings—elites who really are too remote, political systems that really are shockingly corrupt—it is tempting to hope that they can help rejuvenate imperfect democracies around the world. Alas, the best evidence available suggests that, so far at least, they have done the opposite. On average, populist governments have deepened corruption, eroded individual rights, and inflicted serious damage on democratic institutions.
O Alexandre Homem Cristo está cheio de razão quando afirma que está em curso uma batalha pela linguagem centrada na definição de “populismo” – o novo fascista, neo-liberal ou comunista enquanto insulto no quotidiano politiqueiro. Cá no burgo, esta batalha, à semelhança do que acontece(u) com os epítetos anteriormente mencionados, faz-se em larga medida entre pessoas que sofrem de hemiplegia moral, políticos e comentadores que procuram colar aos adversários este rótulo como forma de deslegitimar a sua participação no processo político demo-liberal.
São, portanto, incapazes, de perceber ou admitir o que já tantos autores, de Margaret Canovan a Ernesto Laclau, ou mais recentemente, Cas Mudde e Jan-Werner-Muller, pese embora o sempiterno debate em torno da definição de populismo – como acontece com qualquer outro conceito na ciência política -, definiram enquanto características centrais do populismo, nomeadamente, a possibilidade de acomodar qualquer ideologia, de esquerda ou de direita (o populismo é uma ideologia de baixa densidade – na classificação de Mudde e Kaltwasser, que se socorrem desta expressão originalmente utilizada por Michael Freeden – ou seja, como escrevi num artigo para o Jornal Económico, tem um reduzido conteúdo ideológico normativo, aparecendo normalmente ligado a outras ideologias que, essas sim, procuram articular determinadas concepções a respeito da natureza humana, da sociedade e do poder político, estabelecendo a partir destas uma determinada visão do mundo. O mesmo é dizer que o populismo se acopla a ideologias quer de esquerda quer de direita, existindo inúmeros exemplos de políticos e partidos de ambos os quadrantes que articulam uma retórica populista com as mais diversas ideologias. Existem, assim, subtipos do populismo, mas raramente se encontrará o populismo numa forma pura), a divisão da sociedade entre o povo puro e a elite corrupta e a pretensão de que a política seja a expressão da rousseauniana vontade geral, de que os populistas dizem ser os únicos e legítimos representantes.
Disto facilmente se percebe que, independentemente da forma como seja teorizado (ideologia, estilo discursivo ou estratégia política sendo as três formas mais comuns), o populismo é incompatível com a democracia liberal, daí que seja particularmente apropriada a definição mínima avançada por Takis Pappas (recomendação de Pedro Magalhães no Facebook) de populismo enquanto democracia iliberal. Esta definição mínima está, aliás, em linha com as considerações de Mudde e Kaltwasser a respeito dos impactos do populismo consoante a fase do processo de democratização em que surja, podendo ter impactos positivos sobre regimes autoritários, ao catalisar uma transição democrática, mas tendo frequentemente impactos negativos se surgir numa democracia liberal consolidada, representando uma ameaça que se pode concretizar num processo de desdemocratização (dividido em erosão democrática, ruptura democrática e repressão).
É por isto que, na minha humilde opinião, o populismo contemporâneo representa uma séria ameaça ao que Michael Doyle se refere como a zona de paz liberal, uma actualização da teoria da paz democrática derivada da ideia de paz perpétua de Kant, e, consequentemente, ao modo de vida a que estamos habituados no Ocidente. Mas sobre isto, passe a imodesta publicidade, falarei na próxima semana, no dia 21, no I Congresso de Relações Internacionais da Universidade Lusíada-Norte.
Jan-Werner Mueller, “Can Liberalism Save Itself?“:
Needless to say, technocratic rhetoric provides an excellent opening for populists, because it invites the very questions that populists are wont to ask: Where are the citizens in all this? How can there be a democracy without choices? This is how technocracy and populism can start to reinforce one another. They can seem like opposites – the intellectual versus the emotional, the rational versus the irrational. And yet each is ultimately a form of anti-pluralism.
The technocratic assertion that there is only one rational solution to a problem means that anyone who disagrees with that solution is irrational, just as the populist claim that there is only one authentic popular will means that anyone who disagrees must be a traitor to the people. Lost in the fateful technocratic-populist interplay is everything one might think of as crucial to democracy: competing arguments, an exchange of ideas, compromise. In the absence of democratic discourse, politics becomes a contest between only two options. And those committed to either side share the view that there are never any alternatives.
Scott Atran, “Alt-Right or jihad?”:
It was religious philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who first discussed ‘the dizziness of freedom’ and the social disruption that it creates. Seizing on the idea in Escape from Freedom (1941), humanist philosopher Erich Fromm argued that too much freedom caused many to seek elimination of uncertainty in authoritarian systems. This has combined with what social psychologist Arie Kruglanski calls ‘the search for significance’, propelling both violent jihadists and militant supporters of populist ethno-nationalist movements worldwide. In the wake of these forces, we see what psychologist Michele Gelfand describes as a ‘tightening’ of political cultures, featuring intolerance of behaviours that differ from the norm. Thus, in our recent fieldwork with youth emerging from under ISIS rule in Mosul, we find that although ISIS may have lost its state, the Caliphate, it hasn’t necessarily lost allegiance among the people to its core values of strict religious rule and rejection of democracy. As one young man put it: ‘Sharia is God telling you what to do … Democracy is humans causing wars and distrust. To be free to do whatever you want leads to many problems and divisions and corruption in society.’
From jihadis in Europe to white supremacists in the US, people most susceptible to joining radical groups are youth in their teens and 20s seeking community and purpose. The attraction of community is especially keen where there are sentiments of social exclusion or community collapse, whether or not accompanied by economic deprivation. It is a sense of purpose that most readily propels action and sacrifice, including a willingness to fight and die – especially when that purpose is perceived to be in defence of transcendent values dissociated from material costs or consequences.
In our studies across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, we find that when membership in a tight community combines with a commitment to transcendent values, the willingness to make costly sacrifices will rise. The idea is to encourage devoted action for the sake of absolute values that fuse community and purpose.
This applies to the alt-Right as well. Just look at Patrik Hermansson’s undercover investigation of the extreme Right for the anti-racist group Hope Not Hate. Like recruiters who seek to bring in people from the larger Muslim community through cultural mixers and gatherings and then nudge them towards jihadi values, the alt-Right aims ‘to bring the [white] mainstream towards us’, as far-Right Scottish YouTube vlogger Colin Robertson put it, by avoiding the stereotypical ‘race hate’ line, and by relentlessly focusing on what Aryan Nations portrays as ‘a spiritual-based, numinous way of living’.
Fearful of the chauvinism and xenophobia that fed two world wars, many Western leaders and press simply denounce national identity or cultural preference as ‘bigoted’ or ‘racist’, and show an ostrich-like blindness to pan-human preferences for one’s own. This leaves the field wide-open for the offensive of white-nationalist groups of the alt-Right, or the far-Right’s less overtly racist alt-Light defenders of ‘Western culture’ against the onslaught of Islam, globalism, migration, feminism and homosexuality.
So how might we intervene? At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where I presented some of our research findings, I had the impression that most people in attendance thought that the recent surge of jihadism and xenophobic ethno-national populism were just atavistic blips in the ineluctable progress of globalisation that were destined to soon go away. That to me was the most worrisome feature of Davos, whose denizens basically run the world (or try to). Few there seemed willing to change their policies or behaviour. They seemed to view the left-behinds of the dark side of globalisation as simply losers that might be given a handout when artificial intelligence and robots deny them any chance for a decent living.
At the very least, we must embed ourselves within actual communities to understand which approach may work best. A necessary focus of this effort must be youth, who form the bulk of today’s extremist recruits and tomorrow’s most vulnerable populations. Volunteers for al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and many extreme nationalist groups are often youth in transitional stages in their lives – immigrants, students, people between jobs and before finding their mates. Having left their homes, they seek new families of friends and fellow travellers to find purpose and significance. The ability to understand the realities facing young people will determine whether the transnational scourge of violent extremism continues and surges or abates.
Até ao fim de Julho podem aceder livremente a esta colecção de artigos subordinados à temática ‘Political Science and the 2017 UK General Election’. Destaco “Political Opposition and the European Union” de Peter Mair e “The Populist Zeitgeist” de Cas Mudde.
Pierre Manent, “Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center”:
As a term, “populism” is indisputably marked with discredit and denunciation. The populist orientation is often said to have a “passionate,” “extreme,” or “irresponsible” manner and tone. But its content, too, is never credited with the characteristics of reason, moderation, and responsibility. The term “populism” denotes an orientation, a political opinion, or certain orientations or political opinions, which are discredited and denounced. What opinions, what orientations? They can vary widely, and it is possible to distinguish them according to their basic political polarity, a populism of the Left or extreme Left, and a populism of the Right or extreme Right. It is important, however, to understand that the common substantive of populism tends to prevail over these opposing qualifiers of Left and Right. Even if this effect is not desired, it at least follows from the use of the term. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is thus effectively placed in the same boat as Marine Le Pen, which displeases him greatly. (Here, despite the axiological neutrality that ought to rule political science, I cannot help but sympathize with Jean-Luc Mélenchon.) By classifying these two political leaders under the same heading, this grouping effectively clouds the political landscape to the point of rendering it incomprehensible.
We encounter, then, the following difficulty. How is it possible that a notion which seems to have become indispensable for the understanding of political debate tends rather to make it confused and indecipherable? Does this notion indicate the new reality of those who are thus labeled, or is it not rather a product of the new political intention of those who use it? If the notion of populism can cover political orientations as distant as those of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen—if it thus has the power to prevail over the opposition between the Left and the Right, and even between the extreme Left and the extreme Right—it is because powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape no longer around the opposition between the Right and the Left but between populism and . . . what? We do not know yet, but since “populism” is pejorative and implies discredit, we will say “respectable” and “accredited” politics.
These powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape around the opposition between populism, which we can still describe as Right or Left, and respectable politics, which can still retain its versions of Right and Left. When I speak of the intention of these powerful forces, I do not refer to any sinister plot to give new names to things that have not changed, or to any plot to deceive good citizens. The situation has doubtless already changed enough so that the effort to pit “populism” against “respectable politics” is not merely possible in theory, but already has real purchase. The ability of the Right/Left polarity to organize and describe political life is now likely much weakened.
We can, however, already remark on the difference between how the Right/Left polarity and the populist/respectable polarity see political life. The Right/Left polarity attributes an equal legitimacy to both poles. Even if each of these halves claims full political legitimacy and doubts the legitimacy and occasionally even the simple morality of its opposing half, the system itself is based on the equal legitimacy of the two halves or the two poles, with an uncertainty or a gray zone represented by the extremes (extreme Right or extreme Left), whose democratic legitimacy is always suspect. The new mode is characterized by the unequal legitimacy of the two poles or the two halves: populism as such is tendentiously illegitimate, while “respectable” politics is tendentiously the only legitimate politics.
It seems to me that we have not sufficiently noted to what extent this new mode is actually new. The distinctive feature that the democratic and liberal order used to have as its foundation was the equal legitimacy of the majority and its opposition. The new order now imposing itself more and more upon us rests on the contrast between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions. The point deserves to be examined further, but it already seems clear that with this transformation, we have started to pass from an order built on confrontation between equally legitimate opinions to an order relying on confrontation between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions, between political orthodoxy and heresy. If this were true, then we would be in the process of departing from democracy as it has thus far been known.
Daniele Caramani, “Will vs. Reason: The Populist and Technocratic Forms of Political Representation and Their Critique to Party Government”, American Political Science Review 111, no. 1 (2017):
Populism and technocracy see themselves as antipolitics and, more specifically, antiparty. Whether in their actor (movements and parties), discourse and ideology, or regime and institutional versions, both forms of representation claim to be external to party politics. In fact, the more precise claim of these forms of representation is that they are above party politics, which is seen in negative terms for various reasons. Parties are carriers of particular interests rather than the interests of society as a whole and even pursue the interests of the “part”—as it were—to the detriment, when necessary, of the general interest. Parties, rather than being perceived as capable of formulating visions and projects for the common good of the society (albeit alternative ones), are seen merely in terms of individualistic and self-interested (ultimately irresponsible) factions that articulate particularistic interests.
First, in both populism and technocracy there is the idea of a unitary, general, common interest of a given society (a country). In these views, there are things that are either good or bad for the whole of society and political action can be either good or bad for a society in its entirety. There is a homogenous and organic vision of the people and the nation. It is furthermore possible to “discover” this common or general interest. While populism and technocracy—as is discussed below—have fundamentally different views on how to identify the unitary interest, they are confident that it exists and can be found out.
Second, both populism and technocracy have a nonpluralistic view of society and politics. Politics is doing what is good for all, not articulating, allocating and deciding between diverse interests, or aggregating them. To be more precise, an aggregation does indeed take place. However, rather than having competing proposals of aggregation (as this is the case in parties’ ideologies) given to people to choose from, the true solution is manifest and indisputable. In this sense, both pretend to be, and present themselves as, antiideological. There are no party platforms needed (for a prospective decision) and, when and where these are available, they should not be binding. To be sure, mass political parties, too, present a unified vision of the public interest. This is precisely their function of “aggregation” of various interests from diverse constituencies. However, differently from populism and technocracy, several visions are present in the system, they compete with one another and compromise is sought—either through majority-opposition alternation over time or consensual institutions.
While party government is mainly based on a prospective “mandate” view (input counts and parties are bound to what they promise), populism and technocracy are based on a retrospective “independent” view (output counts) as they operate through vagueness rather than through a precise program or mandate. Both populism and technocracy thus follow a trustee model. In technocracy, people cannot give a mandate because they do not possess the faculty of identifying society’s interest. In populism, it could be argued that the leadership determines people’s interests through a strong identification with them (embodiment)—by being “one of them.” This can be seen as a form of mandate. Yet there is a complete transfer of decision making to the leadership that is unquestioned. Questioning the leadership is automatically questioning the will of the people. In the party government conception of democracy, on the other hand, voters are assumed to have some degree of expertise.
Third, both populism and technocracy—in their vision of a unitary society and refusal of plurality—see the relationship between people and elite as “unmediated.” All that comes in-between is a source of distortion of the general interest. As a consequence, populism and technocracy rely on an independent elite to which the people entrust the task of identifying the common interest and the appropriate solution. In spite of presenting themselves as antielite and antiestablishment, the populist model is as elitist—if not more—than party government with leaders being uncontested and unquestioned over protracted periods and enjoying vast spaces to manoeuvre and freedom to interpret people’s interest. It is no accident that populist parties—be it in the past or recently in Austria’s FPÖ, France’s National Front, Italy’s Northern League, or Britain’s UKIP among others—have lasting leaderships that are largely uncontested and based on acclamatory and plebiscitarian mobilization. In fact, both types of ideologies have often found their application in nondemocratic regimes, most notably in Latin America, be it the populist-plebiscitarian regimes or the technocratic-military regimes.
In different ways, populism and technocracy are both antipolitical forms of representation. While politics is competition, aggregation of plurality and allocation of values, populism and technocracy see society as monolithic with a unitary interest. While populism and technocracy aim at discovering the common good, parties compete to define it. Both populism and technocracy do not conceive of a legitimate opposition insofar as that would involve conceiving of “parts” being opposed to the interest of the whole. In the case of populism, plurality is reduced to the opposition between people and elite. In the case of technocracy, plurality is reduced to the opposition between right and wrong. In the former, opposition is corrupt; in the latter it is irrational.
For the sake of the theoretical argument, the article has presented the populist and technocratic alternatives to party government through ideal types rather than empirical cases. For sure, the technicization of political decision making is undermining democratic sovereignty and the popularization of politics and the public sphere is undermining the informed and respectful participation of citizens in favor of mob-type attitudes. However, in recent times this challenge has so far remained within the frame of the liberal democratic state. In contrast, between World War I and II many West European countries experienced a breakdown of democracy and many countries in Southern/Eastern Europe and Latin America had protracted periods during which regimes based on either or both populist and technocratic principles ruled. Today, populists mobilize as political parties themselves and participate to the electoral competition as well as national executives. Experts are co-opted by parties (often from think tanks linked to them) that rely on their expertise and delegate the task of taking unpopular decisions especially at the transnational level. There have been cases, as in Italy after the Monti cabinet of 2011−12, of experts creating political parties. By participating in elections, they offer precisely the kind of “agonistics” that legitimize the system and, when they enter government, movements and experts morph, vindicating party democracy. Populism and technocracy therefore operate as “correctives” of—not only alternatives to—party government.
Roger Scruton, “Populism, VII: Representation & the people”:
The fact remains, however, that the accusation of “populism” is applied now largely to politicians on the right, with the implication that they are mobilizing passions that are both widespread and dangerous. On the whole liberals believe that politicians on the left win elections because they are popular, while politicians on the right win elections because they are populist. Populism is a kind of cheating, deploying weapons that civilized people agree not to use and which, once used, entirely change the nature of the game, so that those of gentle and considerate leanings are at an insuperable disadvantage. The division between the popular and the populist corresponds to the deep division in human nature, between the reasonable interests that are engaged by politics, and the dark passions that threaten to leave negotiation, conciliation, and compromise behind. Like “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “Islamophobia,” “populism” is a crime laid at the door of conservatives. For the desire of conservatives to protect the inherited identity of the nation, and to stand against what they see as the real existential threats posed by mass migration, is seen by their opponents as fear and hatred of the Other, which is seen in turn as the root cause of inter-communal violence.
The phenomenon of the instant plebiscite—what one might call the “webiscite”—is therefore far more important than has yet been recognized. Nor does it serve the interests only of the Right in politics. Almost every day there pops up on my screen a petition from Change.org or Avaaz.org urging me to experience the “one click” passport to moral virtue, bypassing all political processes and all representative institutions in order to add my vote to the cause of the day. Avaaz was and remains at the forefront of the groups opposing the “populism” of Donald Trump, warning against his apparent contempt for the procedures that would put brakes on his power. But in the instant politics of the webiscite such contradictions don’t matter. Consistency belongs with those checks and balances. Get over them, and get clicking instead.
It is not that the instant causes of the webiscites are wrong: without the kind of extensive debate that is the duty of a legislative assembly it is hard to decide on their merits. Nevertheless, we are constantly being encouraged to vote in the absence of any institution that will hold anyone to account for the decision. Nobody is asking us to think the matter through, or to raise the question of what other interests need to be considered, besides the one mentioned in the petition. Nobody in this process, neither the one who proposes the petition nor the many who sign it, has the responsibility of getting things right or runs the risk of being ejected from office if he fails to do so. The background conditions of representative government have simply been thought away, and all we have is the mass expression of opinion, without responsibility or risk. Not a single person who signs the petition, including those who compose it, will bear the full cost of it. For the cost is transferred to everyone, on behalf of whatever single-issue pressure group takes the benefit.
We are not creatures of the moment; we do not necessarily know what our own interests are, but depend upon advice and discussion. Hence we need processes that impede us from making impetuous choices; we need the filter that will bring us face to face with our real interests. It is precisely this that is being obscured by the emerging webiscite culture. Decisions are being made at the point of least responsibility, by the man or woman in the street with an iPhone, asked suddenly to click “yes” or “no” in response to an issue that they have never thought about before and may never think about again.
Reflect on these matters and you will come to see, I believe, that if “populism” threatens the political stability of democracies, it is because it is part of a wider failure to appreciate the virtue and the necessity of representation. For representative government to work, representatives must be free to ignore those who elected them, to consider each matter on its merits, and to address the interests of those who did not vote for them just as much as the interests of those who did. The point was made two centuries ago by Edmund Burke, that representation, unlike delegation, is an office, defined by its responsibilities. To refer every matter to the constituents and to act on majority opinion case by case is precisely to avoid those responsibilities, to retreat behind the consensus, and to cease to be genuinely accountable for what one does.
This brings me to the real question raised by the upheavals of 2016. In modern conditions, in which governments rarely enjoy a majority vote, most of us are living under a government of which we don’t approve. We accept to be ruled by laws and decisions made by politicians with whom we disagree, and whom we perhaps deeply dislike. How is that possible? Why don’t democracies constantly collapse, as people refuse to be governed by those they never voted for? Why do the protests of disenchanted voters crying “not my president!” peter out, and why has there been after all no mass exodus of liberals to Canada?
The answer is that democracies are held together by something stronger than politics. There is a “first person plural,” a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it. Many are the flaws in this system of government, but one feature gives it an insuperable advantage over all others so far devised, which is that it makes those who exercise power accountable to those who did not vote for them. This kind of accountability is possible only if the electorate is bound together as a “we.” Only if this “we” is in place can the people trust the politicians to look after their interests. Trust enables people to cooperate in ensuring that the legislative process is reversible when it makes a mistake; it enables them to accept decisions that run counter to their individual desires and which express views of the nation and its future that they do not share. And it enables them to do this because they can look forward to an election in which they have a chance to rectify the damage.
That simple observation reminds us that representative democracy injects hesitation, circumspection, and accountability into the heart of government—qualities that play no part in the emotions of the crowd. Representative government is for this reason infinitely to be preferred to direct appeals to the people, whether by referendum, plebiscite, or webiscite. But the observation also reminds us that accountable politics depends on mutual trust. We must trust our political opponents to acknowledge that they have the duty to represent the people as a whole, and not merely to advance the agenda of their own political supporters.
But what happens when that trust disintegrates? In particular, what happens when the issues closest to people’s hearts are neither discussed nor mentioned by their representatives, and when these issues are precisely issues of identity—of “who we are” and “what unites us”? This, it seems to me, is where we have got to in Western democracies—in the United States just as much as in Europe. And recent events on both continents would be less surprising if the media and the politicians had woken up earlier to the fact that Western democracies—all of them without exception—are suffering from a crisis of identity. The “we” that is the foundation of trust and the sine qua non of representative government, has been jeopardized not only by the global economy and the rapid decline of indigenous ways of life, but also by the mass immigration of people with other languages, other customs, other religions, other ways of life, and other and competing loyalties. Worse than this is the fact that ordinary people have been forbidden to mention this, forbidden to complain about it publicly, forbidden even to begin the process of coming to terms with it by discussing what the costs and benefits might be.
Of course they have not been forbidden to discuss immigration in the way that Muslims are forbidden to discuss the origins of the Koran. Nor have they been forbidden by some express government decree. If they say the wrong things, they are not arrested and imprisoned—not yet, at least. They are silenced by labels—“racism,” “xenophobia,” “hate speech”—designed to associate them with the worst of recent crimes. In my experience, ordinary people wish to discuss mass immigration in order to prevent those crimes. But this idea is one that cannot be put in circulation, for the reason that the attempt to express it puts you beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Hillary Clinton made the point in her election campaign, with her notorious reference to the “deplorables”—in other words, the people who bear the costs of liberal policies and respond to them with predictable resentments.
ll this has left the conservative movement at an impasse. The leading virtue of conservative politics as I see it is the preference for procedure over ideological programs. Liberals tend to believe that government exists in order to lead the people into a better future, in which liberty, equality, social justice, the socialist millennium, or something of that kind will be realized. The same goal-directed politics has been attempted by the EU, which sees all governance as moving towards an “ever closer union,” in which borders, nations, and the antagonisms that allegedly grow from them will finally disappear. Conservatives believe that the role of government is not to lead society towards a goal but to ensure that, wherever society goes, it goes there peacefully. Government exists in order to conciliate opposing views, to manage conflicts, and to ensure peaceful transactions between the citizens, as they compete in the market, and associate in what Burke called their “little platoons.”
That conception of government is, to me, so obviously superior to all others that have entered the imperfect brains of political thinkers that I find myself irresistibly drawn to it. But it depends on a pre-political unity defined within recognized borders, and a sovereign territory that is recognizably “ours,” the place where “we” are, the home that we share with the strangers who are our “fellow countrymen.” All other ways of defining the “we” of human communities—whether through dynasty, tribe, religion, or the ruling Party—threaten the political process, since they make no room for opposition, and depend on conscripting the people to purposes that are not their own. But procedural politics of the conservative kind is possible only within the confines of a nation state—which is to say, a state defined over sovereign territory, whose citizens regard that territory as their legitimate home.
Do que tenho lido por aí sobre o populismo, Donald Trump e os tempos em que vivemos, este é, sem dúvida, o melhor, mais claro e mais recomendável artigo.