Restoring Democracy in an Age of Populists and Pestilence
“This global affairs veteran has carved out a solid, mature path, including for ‘flawed democracies’ like the U.S. We’d all be wise to follow.” — Vancouver Sun
From the author of the Globe and Mail bestseller, Claws of the Panda, comes a book quite literally for our times. Restoring Democracy in an Age of Populists and Pestilence is a thoughtful account of how we can save democracies from the despots and populists who provide easy answers to complicated situations, dumbing political discourse down to sandbox antics.
Manthorpe argues that democracy is more resilient than it appears, and is capable of overcoming the attacks from within and without that have sapped its vigour since the end of the Cold War. He begins with a description of the events of 1989, one of the seminal years in modern history. This saw the end of the Cold War, and the apparent conclusive victory of democracy and its civic values.
But the view of these changes as a triumph of democracy — as summed up in Francis Fukuyama’s essay "The End of History" — was short-lived. Russia, shorn of its Soviet empire, and the Chinese Communist Party, re-examining its survival after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, began devising ways to counter-attack the West’s triumphalism and these met with considerable success.
Internal pressures and contradictions — wealth disparity being chief among them — threaten the survival of many democratic systems. Abandoned industrial workers turn to the repeated platitudes designed to appeal to those left behind without actually offering them the ways and means to catch up. Immigrants, refugees, and the reformist fixations of isolated liberal elites have provided ammunition for would-be despots.
Adding to the pressures building on the political norms of our democracies, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought economic and social stand-still for which no country is prepared.