10 May, 2021

So Long, Marianne

Enthused by Trump’s win, a puffed up right prepares to lay siege to liberal Europe

The tense mood at a rally of the anti-immigrant Pagida movement in Dresden, Germany
Photograph by Getty Images
So Long, Marianne

For decades, Western European democracies have taken pride in their liberal values, harbingers not only of peace and prosperity, but inspirers too of open societies and representative governments across the globe. Pursuing policies based on such values also helped them in grand integration of the continent into the European Union.

But are these values nearing extinction? Importantly, are leaders steeped in liberal tradition so out of touch with the ground reality that they are stupefied by changes in many parts of the West? These are con­­cerned queries that have gathered greater salience since the victory of Donald Trump.

“Populism is not anti-democratic but it implies an illiberal version of democracy,” says Alberto Martinelli, professor emeritus at the University of Milan. Martinelli says it brings to the surface the constant tension between the two components of the “democracy of the modern”, the liberal and the democratic. It tries to solve the tension between the two by exploding the former and limiting the latter. “It is...

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