Timothy Garton Ash places Donald Trump's election victory in an international context. Throughout the world, he writes, right wing populism is fuelling the development of illiberal democracies:
In Vladimir Putin’s Russia we have something very close to fascism. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey is rapidly crossing the line between illiberal democracy and fascism, while Viktor Orbán’s Hungary is already an illiberal democracy. In Poland, France, the Netherlands, Britain and now the US, we have to defend the line between liberal and illiberal democracy.
All of these movements claim to be the voice of the people. But that's a half truth:
On closer examination, it turns out that “the people” – Volk might be a more accurate term – is actually only a part of the people. Trump perfectly exemplified this populist sleight of hand in an impromptu remark at a campaign rally.
“The only important thing is the unification of the people,” he said, “because the other people don’t mean anything.” It’s not the Others, you see: the Kurds, Muslims, Jews, refugees, immigrants, black people, elites, experts, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, cosmopolitans, metropolitans, gay Europhile judges. Ukip’s Nigel Farage announced that Brexit was a victory for ordinary people, decent people, real people – 48% of those who voted in the referendum being thereby declared neither ordinary nor decent nor real.
We've been here before:
Nationalist populism now, globalised liberalism (or neoliberalism) in the 1990s, fascism and communism in the 1930s and 40s, imperialism in the 19th century. Two lessons perhaps: that these things usually take a significant period of time to work themselves out; and that to reverse them (if the wave is of a kind you want to see reversed) requires courage, determination, consistency, the development of a new political language and new policy answers to real problems.
It's going to be what John F. Kennedy called a "long, twilight struggle." And, to succeed, we'll have to call on a number of resources:
A great example is the development of western Europe’s combination of market economy and welfare state after 1945. This model, which finally saw off the waves of communism and fascism, needed the intellectual genius of a John Maynard Keynes, the policy know-how of people like William Beveridge and the political skill of people like Clement Attlee. I say “people like” because other names could be inserted for the versions adopted in other west European countries. But what an ocean of blood, sweat and tears we had to swim through to reach that point.
There are no easy fixes. And it's going to take time.