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Western Democracy Is Threatening Suicide

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  • Populism - Why Now?

    Anger over economic stagnation and social change are driving people to vote in anger, and in protest, argues Yascha Mounk.

  • Democracy on the Edge?

    Bernard-Henri Levy argues that democracies can, in fact, die and that modern political attitudes, and technology, are fueling democratic decline.

  • Le Carré’s Warning to The West

    Author and former intelligence officer John le Carré recently compared modern political sentiments to the rise of fascism in the 1930s. Kori Schake responds.

  • 2017 America is Not 1938 Germany

    Kori Schake and Bernard-Henri Levy debate the strength, and fragility, of democratic states throughout history and in modern times.

  • Democracy Is Robust, Not Fragile

    Is democracy a natural state of humanity? Or are we destined for autocracy? Clive Crook weighs in.

  • Will American Elections Stand?

    Clive Crook questions whether or not Donald Trump will accept the results of upcoming American elections and what that would mean for the U.S.

  • Are We Sliding Into Fascism?

    Will threats to democracy be obvious? Or could society slowly descend into authoritarianism? Yascha Mounk and Clive Crook debate.

  • Unrest in Catalonia

    Should we see violence in Catalonia as a warning of things to come in the West? Yascha Mounk dives in.

  • Democratic Institutions in the Trump Era

    Are American checks and balances working? Or is partisanship and division holding government hostage?

Debate Details

Western Democracy Is Committing Suicide

Do the populist and nationalist uprisings that led to Donald Trump and Brexit signal Western democracy’s certain decline?  Or can recent events be seen as part of a healthy and regenerative antidote to policies that have challenged liberal institutions and marginalized the middle class?   Some predict that a resilient liberal world order will rally to triumph over fear, xenophobia and fractured political parties – others say that support for autocratic alternatives is on the rise.       

The Debaters

For the motion

Bernard-Henri Levy

French Philosopher & Journalist

Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher, activist, and filmmaker. His most recent book, The Genius of Judaism, was published in January 2017 by Random... Read More

Yascha Mounk

Yascha Mounk

Lecturer, Harvard University & Senior Fellow, New America

Yascha Mounk is a lecturer on political theory at Harvard University, a senior fellow at New America, and a postdoctoral fellow at the German Marshall... Read More

Against the motion

Clive Crook Debater For The Motion

Clive Crook

Columnist, Bloomberg View

Clive Crook is a Bloomberg View columnist and writes editorials on economics, finance and politics. Prior to this, he served as a senior editor at... Read More

Kori Schake

Deputy Director-General, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Kori Schake is the deputy director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and was previously a research fellow at the Hoover... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Xenophobia, racism, and nationalism are on the rise. From support of far-right candidates in France and Brexit in Europe to the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., people around the world are embracing policies and attitudes that are inconsistent with liberal democracy. 
  • The liberal world order is losing ground. Long a beacon of democracy around the world, the United States is turning its back on global institutions and leaving room for alternative powers, such as China and Russia, to seize influence. 
  • Fed up with the economic challenges of globalism and dismayed by the power of the political elite, Westerners are embracing social change over political stability and – increasingly – considering alternatives to elected democratic leadership.  
  • With his executive orders on immigration, attacks on the free press, condemnation of court decisions, and firing of James Comey, President Donald Trump has challenged democratic traditions and exposed weaknesses in America's political system.
Against The Motion
  • The populism and nationalism that brought about Donald Trump and Brexit does not pose a threat to liberal democracy. Rather, these events represent the legitimate exercise of power by frustrated voters who feel their nations have gone off-course. 

  • The Trump administration has strengthened democratic institutions both at home and abroad. Rather than ceding power to an unconventional leader, institutions ranging from global governance organizations to local courts have gained popular support and kept the White House in check. 

  • A resurgence of far-right ideologues has energized citizens around the world to engage in the democratic process. Through support of establishment political parties and civil society organizations, these citizens are strengthening their democracies and combating the xenophobia and racism that has long-been present in their countries and in politics.    

  • Western democracy is not merely defined by American global leadership.  America's allies, including France and Germany, are poised to assume the role of safeguards of the liberal world order as the United States turns inward. 

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The Research

The Research

Bernard-Henri Lévy on Trump, Brexit, and the rise of the far right

November 18, 2016

As the French election heats up, Evan Davis speaks to renowned philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy about the rise of populism and the global march to the right.  

Democracy Should Be Divided – but Not This Divided

January 19, 2017

Politics is a noble, brave world, says Bernard-Henri Lévy – but that's not what we have here.  Levy's latest book is "The Genius of Judaism". 

Interview with the Bernard-Henri Levy

January 5, 2017

Liberalism is embattled, says the French author and intellectual. As France faces its election year and the rise of the Front National, he argues that liberal politics have helped bring about their own crisis. But should liberals embrace the bans of the Hijab? And how should they respond to Vladimir Putin’s autocracy?

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