The November 2 New York Times carried an article titled “What is Pulling Liberal Democracy Apart?” The article itself was the usual drivel, but the title stuck with me. The Establishment really does not understand why its definition of “liberal democracy” is failing. Yet the answer is obvious: “liberal” now contradicts “democracy”.
This was not always true. When “liberal” retained its historic meaning as broad-minded, generous, and tolerant, desirous of a free market both in economics and in ideas, it was at least compatible with democracy, although there were tensions. As a look at classical Athens quickly shows, democracy often went in distinctly illiberal directions. Cleon was a product of democracy, just as much as Pericles, and it was not a monarch who ordered Socrates to drink the hemlock. Nonetheless, in America and Britain, from the mid-19th century onward the old liberalism and democracy got along reasonably well.
Why is that no longer the case? Why, in country after country, does the Left find democracy leading to governments (Trump, Orban, Putin) and measures (Brexit, keeping out migrants) liberals abhor? Because the old liberalism is dead. It died in the 1960s when the New Left took its arguments to the extreme, turned them against the old-line liberals and destroyed them morally by pointing out their contradictions. I watched that happen at Dartmouth College in the late 1960s when I was a student there. All the liberals who ran the college could do when the SDS threw their own arguments (always qualified, in the liberals’ minds, by common sense) back in their faces was to stammer and yield.
Herbert Marcuse provided the intellectual foundations of the New Left by feeding them the Frankfurt School’s cultural Marxism, carefully pureed into baby food. Cultural Marxism became the ideology of the Boomer generation, and it remains today that generation’s definition of liberalism. It is, in the old sense of the word, thoroughly illiberal: intolerant, ungenerous, narrow-minded, loathing free markets of all kinds, especially a free market in ideas. Just look at any campus where cultural Marxism rules, which seems to be most of them. Anyone who dares question feminism, “gay rights”, “equality” in any of its manifestations, is soon in serious trouble. All must bow and scrape before the “general line of the Party”.
That “liberalism”, liberalism re-defined as cultural Marxism, is inherently contradictory to democracy. Why? Because normal people reject the swill. Ordinary Whites don’t apologize for being White or regard themselves as “oppressors”. Reasonable men and women recognize the sexes are not interchangeable. While most people are willing to tolerate homosexuality, they reject a demand to approve of it, and they think discretion is the tribute vice of all sorts should pay to virtue.
The cultural Marxists have sought to deal with a widespread and growing democratic rejection of their ideology by subverting democracy. They have done so by trying to keep any alternatives to themselves off the ballots. For a long while, both here and in Europe, they succeeded.
But that trick has run its course. People now see through “conservatism” such as that of too many Republicans here, the Conservative Party in Britain, the CDU in Germany and so on. A “conservatism” that will not fight cultural Marxism, as those parties will not, is no conservatism at all. So real conservative candidates and parties, candidates and parties that reject the whole Establishment and its ideology, are now getting on ballots and, where they do so, winning elections. When ordinary people are not allowed a truly democratic choice, they vote against today’s liberalism and for their historic faith, culture, and race. What a surprise!
And so the Left is now caught in a contradiction of its own making, a contradiction between its ideology of cultural Marxism, labelled “liberalism” or “progressivism”, and its promotion of democracy. It can have one or the other, but not both. At present, it cannot choose. Eventually it will, and its choice will be to extinguish democracy and forbid people to vote for anything but more cultural Marxism. If we get to that point it will mean war.
You can safely bet this was not the analysis the New York Times provided its readers on what is pulling liberal democracy apart.