“Crisis what Crisis. The Great Rebalancing of Western Democracies.”

27. Juni 2019 19:00

David Goodhart

David Goodhart is a journalist, author and think tanker—currently head of the demography unit at the Policy Exchange think tank. He is the founder and former editor of Prospect magazine and the former director of the centre-left think tank Demos. His book “The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration” was runner up for the Orwell book prize. In his new book (a Sunday Times bestseller) The Road to Somewhere: The New Tribes Shaping British Politics, Goodhart identifies the value divisions in British society that help to explain the Brexit vote and the rise of populism.

A lot of my more political friends exist in a state of permanent gloom, at least when they think about the public realm. A dark cloud hangs over them, a feeling that ever since the arrival of that sinister triumvirate—of Brexit, Trump and populism in Europe—reality has been defiled. We have taken a giant step back on that slow path to progress, and democracy has proved a fickle friend too easily subject to emotional manipulation and demagoguery.
I disagree. Not everything that has happened in the past few years has been welcome by any means. But the surprise success of that triumvirate represents not a political disaster but rather democracy working—a rebalancing of politics, a corrective, to better reflect the interests and priorities of that large and diffuse coalition of people in rich countries who felt too often unheard in the past 25 years of rapid change and domination by economic liberalism and it’s social/cultural twin. Who are they? The economic losers, the small-c conservatives, the provincials, those who placed a high value on national attachments and social contracts.
Those interests have now found a voice and this is necessarily a messy and disruptive process and many people, like those friends of mine, feel a bit bereft. But we are in danger of replacing one big wrong idea from the late 1990s/early 2000s—that politics had essentially ended, or at least become a matter of technocratic administration—with another big wrong idea from the last few years—that democracy is now in danger as we slip back towards some sort of 1930s disaster on a wave of political and xenophobic violence.
On the contrary the checks and balances are working in America and in Britain (almost too well in the Brexit impasse), young people are more politicised, the anodyne technocratic/legalistic politics of the post-cold war era has evolved into something more bracing in which politicians turn out not to be “all the same” after all! And, most important of all, the coalition of the under-represented has entered mainstream politics.

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