This Is the Year Democracies Fight Back

This Is the Year Democracies Fight Back

Liberal states have been on the defensive for too long.

2021 must be the year when liberal democratic states start fighting back against authoritarians within and without. Over the last few years, powerful rival states as well as domestic elements have waged a vicious cultural, economic, and political war against liberalism as the incumbent political culture of Western democracies, as well as the democratic notion that all citizens, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or religion, should have equal voice in choosing their political representatives.

After the West won the Cold War, Western liberal democrats stopped vigorously defending this way of governing because they reckoned the superiority of their model had become self-evident. The challenge posed by the communist model was gone, the era of liberal consensus seemed to have arrived, and overeager observers declared the “end of history.” America could invade countries to topple authoritarian regimes and assume out of hand that the supposedly liberated citizens would obviously all want to build a Western-style democracy and they would do so spontaneously, with no further work needed—see Iraq.

But as it turns out, liberal values are not self-evident to everyone, nor are liberal assumptions about how the world works. Indeed, some liberal assumptions about how the world works turned out to be patently false: for example, the assumption that more free speech would automatically lead to the end of bad ideas and the triumph of good ones.