If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when people talk about liberal democracy in the present tense. Democracy died in this country when Obama signed his executive orders on immigration and the left went mad with ethnic hatred. You can’t have a democracy when two-thirds of the population are widely panned by elites as undeserving of the right to participate in political life . You also can’t have a democracy when said elites openly boast of their plan to bring in foreigners to engineer the electoral results they desire (which they can do without making them full citizens as legislative districts are allocated by population, not citizen population).
What America has had is undemocratic liberalism degenerated into rule by oligarchy. Certain issues were up for public debate; others, from abortion to immigration to trade, were not. As time went on more and more economic protections were heaped on elites and denied to the masses until liberalism itself died. No longer were our markets or our society free. Liberty was increasingly a privilege of the affluent upper 25% of the population, denied to everyone else.
But times have changed. In response to an intolerable situation the American people have embraced illiberal democracy. Illiberal democracies are corrupt, lack free speech, demand loyalty from private businesses to whichever party is in power, put incompetent people in policy-making positions, and in general cause chaos. And yet for all its flaws I’d argue it’s still preferable to the semi-authoritarian system we had before. It’s a lot easier to move from illiberal democracy to liberal democracy than to move from authoritarian kleptocracy to liberal democracy (just ask the Russian electorate if you don’t believe me).
This shift has happened across the political spectrum, from the far right to the centrist middle to the far left. Every political faction now seeks to muzzle its opposition in some way, limit free speech, punish its enemies and reward its friends–even the moderate center. We truly are an illiberal democracy now. If classical liberals wish to return America to its liberal roots, they will have to actually persuade their fellow citizens, not simply dictate terms from the judge’s bench or an administrative agency. And that means coming to terms with their own illiberal and kleptocratic past. From crony capitalism to the college guild system, from a scientific establishment marked by nearly universal fraud to a media landscape whose diverse constituents are united only in their shared practice of lying to the public, from the class apartheid regimes of California and New York to the disenfranchisement of millions of people, American liberals have a lot to answer for.
Liberal democracy has been dead for years. It’s time we all came to terms with that.