A Gathering Storm
Is There a Crisis of Liberal Democracy?

We have entered a new era in which two great-power adversaries are threatening our democratic way of life with great subtlety and sophistication.

Published on: October 13, 2017
Larry Diamond is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He coordinates the democracy program of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) within the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).
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  • SeaAyeA

    Clearly the largest threat comes from the Communist Party of China, or CPC, if for no other reason than it being more powerful, wealthier, and better connected than Putin and his oligarchs. I guess the tragedy is that the power of the CPC is pretty much entirely of the Wests making.

    • Psalms13626

      It is both very powerful and very vulnerable to the internal unrest. Feeding, clothing, employing and entertaining 1.3 billion people is a very resource intensive proposition.

      • SeaAyeA

        It’s not that vulnerable. Ownership of weapons is obviously restricted, and it’s one of the most censored places on this planet. Some of the worlds most popular websites are banned. When they do get together in protest we know what that looks like, too, and it ends up with a few thousand dead kids in Beijing. (June, 1989). But the Party doesn’t need to worry about that because internationalists from the west are happy to support the dictatorships of the world if it makes them a buck to add to their billions.

        • Tom

          Well, or it looks like the Taiping Rebellion, or the Chinese Civil Wars that lasted from the 1920s until 1949. Chinese governments always look invincible, until they aren’t anymore.

          • TNI Censors Comments Now

            Yes yes, but, and this is a pretty big but, the circumstances of those situations were extremely different from today, and even from one another. For example, the Taiping rebelling was against the Manchus. That’s right, the Han were dominated by Manchu invaders from like 1650-1911. Obviously wasn’t really very successful because the Manchus so called Qing dynasty lasted another 50 years.

            And then you do have the so called Chinese civil war with the nationalists against the communists and actually a few other lesser known groups. However, that was interrupted by the Japanese invasion of coarse, and the Communists were so weak that they had pretty much as far west as you could physically be and still remain in China.

            The Communist Party then took advantage of the nationalists Battle fatigue immediately following World War II to accomplish a victory against them that they probably could not have had otherwise. One of the strange ironies of history. The Japanese imperial invasion ultimately helped communists take over china.

    • ltlee1

      Yes. China rises on Western assistance but it also creates its own miracles.

      At present, China has a lot of soft power because it offers other developing nations hope especially in development through green infra-structure project. The following is an example in which China invested $500 million(half of which originally from a World Bank loan) to rehab an ecologically destroyed region the size of Belgium.

      • SeaAyeA

        Eh..? Not really something to be amazed by. I mean, the US can tell you what kind of black hole many Third World countries are for “foreign aid” often aka bribes to locals for occasional support in one way or another. Literally trillions of dollars have been sunk into the third world. US been doing it for decades and decades. Soon as the money train slows they look elsewhere. I suppose the difference for China is that it’s a sir plus nation, so he can afford to play around with a few hundred million or a few billion.

        • BartolomeusGerard

          US is rich enough to send its armed forces into half the countries of the world and bribing its leaders all the time running a huge balance of trade deficit and a huge budget deficit. China is rich enough to build railways as in Ethiopia and Kenya and invest in the further development of countries so building a market for its products and all the while winning friends and influencing people.

  • Boritz

    Queue the Twilight Zone theme…

  • Gary Hemminger

    The truth is that the elites pushed their western globalization and progressive values too far to the left. Too much out of control immigration. You don’t have to be a racist nationalist to think that it was destabilizing to do what the progressives and nationbuilders did around the world. They weren’t building a stable base, they were building a house of cards. Now that house is imploding and going too far to the right. Well guess what progressives? This is what happens when you go too far with things like:

    –Open borders and sanctuary cities
    –Identity politics
    –Anti-free speech
    –Destroying blue collar jobs in the name of saving the planet from global warming

    I like immigrants, and I could care less what gender someone wants to pretend to be. But shrieking we are all going to die from global warming, -and going after white people for their so called privilege isn’t exactly a good way to prevent the far right and nationalists from taking power.

    And the statement “What all these parties share is contempt for elites, for institutions, and for the liberal values of pluralism and inclusion,” is a generalization gone way too far. What these parties share in common is not contempt for elites, it is a contempt for the actions of the elite. It is not contempt for institutions, but contempt for institutions that attempt to force feed their progressive values down our throats. And it certainly is not contempt for pluralism and inclusion. The elites and institutions are the ones that have contempt for pluralism and inclusion. Their identity politics basically ginned up an entire new white victim group.

    This author and the elites and institutions in this country brought on the idiot Trump. It wasn’t the Russians. It wasn’t the Chinese. It wasn’t Comey. As Adam Garfinkle so wisely said “if reasonable people don’t secure the borders, unreasonable people will.”

    If reasonable people don’t start securing our borders, we will get more Trumps
    If reasonable people don’t start standing up to free speech on college campuses, then we will get more Trumps
    If reasonable people don’t start insisting that people should not be carved up into grievance groups, we will get more Trumps

    And finally…
    If reasonable people don’t start telling people that it is okay to use fossil fuels and that we are not all going to die from global warming unless we change everything about how we live and destroy capitalism in the process…expect a lot more Trumps.

  • Paul Lies

    Since when does the “west” care about democracy? The “west” does business with non-democracies all day long. The “west,” particularly in Germany, France, Sweden, and some other EU countries, likes to censor speech, and so on. The “west” built up China! Chinese were riding bikes around Beijing just 30 years ago! This is an indictment of the weakness of democracy, but mostly an indictment of the weakness of private ownership of multinationals.

    • Psalms13626

      I think it’s just affirmation that despite its seeming simplicity Solow Growth Model does a pretty good job at predicting growth paths of countries that adopt modern technologies that really enhances their productivity. I think China’s fastest growth days are behind us, not in front of us.

  • Psalms13626

    “For the first time, a hostile foreign power not only deeply intervened in the American electoral process but tipped it toward its preferred candidate. ” Nope. That didn’t happen. Stop blaming Russia for hillary’s loss.

    • Angel Martin

      If Putin’s troll farm and some Facebook ads can really tip a USA election – sell your Treasury Bonds, it’s over for the USA anyway.

    • JamesDrouin

      Well, I don’t know … Vlad’s a pretty sneaky kind of guy and I’m pretty sure that if anyone could figure out how to hide three entire States from (Lying Crooked) Hillary and her entire campaign staff, it would be him. You know, something like an invisibility cloak … flip the switch and presto, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin just disappear!!!

      • henry bonk

        This is funny and clever. Keep it up.

    • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

      Exactly! Diamond’s theory (well, that’s too dignified — “fever dream” fits him better) requires us to believe that (a) Putin knew that Trump could win when every American expert (doubtless including Diamond) thought it was impossible and (b) he knew exactly how to make it happen for a fraction of the money that Hillary herself spent — about one-hundredth of one percent as much. ($150000 vs $1000000000)

      If Putin and his spies know that much more about us than we do about ourselves and can do so much with so little, then we have vastly greater problems than the result of any one election.

      • Angel Martin

        But, but, but… I thought Putin would be crushed by Obama’s economic sanctions, isolated and impoverished by the EU, trapped in a quagmire in Syria…

        and now I find he’s 10 feet tall…

      • BartolomeusGerard

        True. If you know yourself so badly you’re lost even without any enemy in the world.

  • Anthony

    “It is time for Americans to wake up. The post Cold War era is now truly over. We have entered a new era in which two great power adversaries are, with formidable subtlety, resourcefulness, and technical sophistication, threatening our democratic way of life. This may sound a lot like the twentieth century; in fact, it is quite different. But it will require the same kind of resolve, and the same kind of patient and comprehensive strategy….” (Larry Diamond)

    Yes, the truth is the Liberal Order appears to be stressed in various parts of the globe (as referenced in essay) but can it hold against beliefs (by many of its citizens) that it has failed to deliver on equitable prosperity and life quality concerns – we must face both the great power adversaries and the Imponderables of the new era.

  • D4x

    Don’t you Fellows have a water cooler? “Hoover Fellows in Action community of fellows actively advancing public policy interests to
    promote free markets, limited government, and individual freedom.” https://www.hoover.org/fellows

    “The strategy we need will be the subject of my next column in this space.” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/19187728bb2c0252ef9ff1315578302e3d4a950b70e160acbe75f7ea976f133d.gif

  • Angel Martin

    If, simultaneously, Russia invades the Baltics, NKorea invades SKorea, China invades Taiwan, and Iran attacks Saudi Arabia, the USA and its militarily useless “allies” will be lucky to stop one of those four.

    The western elite can’t even police the borders of their own countries, let alone successfully counter Putin’s troll farms and Chinese spies.

    They are clueless about the simultaneous military threat from Russia, China, NKorea, Iran – even though their “game theory” analysis would suggest that if all these bad actors move together, they are more likely to be individually successful.

    The history of the work shows that rich but weak people have their stuff taken away from them.

    Aside from the USA, the entire West is rich and weak.

    And even in the US military. Trump realizes there are problems but the priority of the entire military leadership seems to be accommodating transvestitism and sodomy.

  • JamesDrouin

    “Is There a Crisis of Liberal Democracy?”

    Well, of course there is. But it’s not a “new” crisis … after all “liberal Democracy” has been at war with reality since liberal Democracy was first conceived, it’s simply that in this day and age, more and more people are chosing to believe their ‘lying eyes’ instead of the projectile vomitus spewed out by the Fake News and Very Fake News.

  • Bankotsu

    Not this motherfucking neo con garbage again.

    Fuck off and get a proper job, won’t you?

  • FriendlyGoat

    Someday this will all be explained as follows: Those who learned how to use faux religion got both the money and the power in Russia.
    Then, those who learned how to use faux religion in America got both the money and the power there too. As the world understands more and more why this should not have happened, it will be more and more in the grip of what should not have happened. Tsk. Tsk. Us oldsters who understand the problem will be dead and new ones coming on will have to re-invent their own human rights wheel.

    • Tom

      “Us oldsters who understand created the problem will be dead and new ones coming on will have to re-invent their own human rights wheel spend their time cleaning up the mess.”

      Seriously, dude. I get that your hobby horse is “I don’t think Christians who are to the right of Hillary Clinton are real Christians,” but it’s seriously starting to cloud your analytical judgment.

  • QET

    The exterior machinations are nothing new. What is new is the rot in the interior. It was said once of a great nation that had deliberately undermined its own traditions and institutions in the name of a new philosophy of diversity and inclusivity, that all one had to do was kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure would come crashing down. Which it, in fact, did. But owing to a number of factors, the collapsed nation was able to revive its traditional values and institutions in time to defeat the exterior threat. A lesson for us, perhaps?

  • Ah, but democracy is not a panacea, although it can be one under certain circumstances. For example, Germany, Japan and Italy (the three Axis powers of the Second World War) were once ruled by totalitarian governments, but were able to change themselves completely, and within several decades’ time no less.

    However, other states, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as arguably Egypt and Libya, have not fared so well under the Western model of democracy, especially as it was more or less imposed upon three of the four nations.

    We are no longer living in a black-and-white world, with two major power blocs competing over spheres of influence. The world of today is far more complex, and far more multifaceted and multipolar, perhaps as it should be.

  • Tom Scharf

    “the Russian hacking of the 2016 American presidential election”

    Utter garbage. Keep going through your phase of grief. The last phase will be acceptance….that it’s you that is the problem. If you don’t get there then get used to losing and creating new scapegoats for your own incompetence.

    People have contempt for elites for a reason. The elites stopped even trying to sell their policies to the unvarnished masses and created a self-perpetuating self-serving economy that serves only the knowledge class and having “Stanford” on a resume doesn’t change that, nor does an assertion that the voters are the problem.

    You are the problem, not the solution. If you want to become the solution then first get rid of the contempt you have for the electorate. Try convincing people instead of demanding their acceptance based on “expert” credentials.

  • Martian_Ambassador

    Let’s hear some more about this awesome Russian ability to make Hillary Clinton EVEN MORE unpopular than she already is/was. Her multi-decade baggage train, which she kept right on overloading up through her failure to concede at the Javits Center, and then beyond, make any Russian effort along those lines seem gratuitous and subject to diminishing returns.

  • Richard Poore

    And the article completely misses the biggest blow to liberal democracy from the 2016 US election:

    The “fixing” of the Democratic party primary.

    The rules were set up to give Hillary a lock on the nomination via the super delegates. But then when it appeared that her coronation might not be easy, the DNC dug in and started cheating to ease her way. And she still came close to losing it, even with a corrupt DNC stealing debate questions for her!

    Yes, liberal democracy took a beating in 2016, and its enemy was the DNC.

  • David K. Peers

    Interesting read until I got to the US part. The Russians didn’t hack an election, Putin didn’t tip the presidency to Trump. You people managed to do that all on your own, primarily by not listening to half your populace and by your tricky Electoral College system. The world is going to illiberal hell [sometimes I wonder if that’s man’s natural state] so I recommend stopping the hand wringing and silly Trump demonizing and do something about it.

  • pete602

    After hearing Larry Diamond on the Buck Sexton show, I came here to learn more… with high expectations. But alas…

    “For the first time, a hostile foreign power not only deeply intervened
    in the American electoral process but tipped it toward its preferred
    candidate. ”

    Okay, I’ve learned enough now. Time to move on.

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