The Great Recession, institutional dysfunction, a growing divide between urban and rural prospects, and failed efforts to effectively address immigration have paved the way for a populist backlash that disrupts the postwar bargain between political elites and citizens. Whether today’s populism represents a corrective to unfair and obsolete policies or a threat to liberal democracy itself remains up for debate. Yet this much is clear: these challenges indict the triumphalism that accompanied liberal democratic consolidation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. To respond to today’s crisis, good leaders must strive for inclusive economic growth while addressing fraught social and cultural issues, including demographic anxiety, with frank attention. Although reforms may stem the populist tide, liberal democratic life will always leave some citizens unsatisfied. This is a permanent source of vulnerability, but liberal democracy will endure so long as citizens believe it is worth fighting for.
About the Author
William A. Galston is a former policy advisor to President Bill Clinton and currently holds the Ezra K. Zilkha Chair in the Governance Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, where he serves as a senior fellow.
Table of Contents
Foreword James Davison Hunter John M. Owen IV ix
Introduction: Challenges to Liberal Democracy 1
1 Democratic Erosion and Political Convergence 7
2 Liberal Democracy in Theory 19
3 The Populist Challenge 33
4 The European Project and Its Enemies Clara J. Hendrickson 41
5 Is Democracy at Risk in the United States? 64
6 Liberal Democracy in America What Is to Be Done? 83
7 Democratic Leadership 105
8 The Incompleteness of Liberal Democracy 126