Yascha Mounk’s new defense of liberalism offers a perceptive diagnosis of its decline, but not much in the way of a cure

Shadi Hamid in The American Interest:

9780674976825There are seemingly two types of Trump laments being published these days: end of democracy books and end of liberalism books. Yascha Mounk’s The People vs. Democracy is the latest entrant in the former category, and probably the most ambitious. It manages to avoid the overwrought alarmism, partisan attacks, and Hitler references that sullied Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die and Timothy Snyder’s occasionally silly pamphlet On Tyranny.Yet as with all books that speak to a present danger—its unsubtle subtitle is “Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It”—Mounk, like a good Paul Thomas Anderson film, struggles in the final third.

The problem with populists—or more precisely the problem with writing about them—isn’t that they’re anti-democratic but rather that they can be quite democratic, more democratic than their opponents, perhaps even too democratic. This is also one of the main reasons—besides racism or Russian meddling—that they seem to do quite well in elections. And not surprisingly, the better they do in elections, the more they seem to like democracy. Anyone who wishes to make sense of populist success, as well as learn from it, must start here. This is precisely what Mounk does, offering a much needed dose of conceptual clarity.

More here.

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