U.S. Politics

The dangers of a resurgent left

With a right-wing populist in the White House and his ideological brethren thriving across a broad swath of Central and Eastern Europe, it's perfectly understandable that pundits and academic analysts have devoted considerable time and attention to reflecting on threats to liberal democracy from the right. Those threats are real and important. But that doesn't mean that the dangers confronting our political system come entirely from one ideological direction. Trumpism (for want of a better term) is just one expression of the underlying source of our problems, which is the trend toward increasing political polarization. Conservative parties are moving rightward, but progressive parties are also moving left — and both are directing their fire at least as much toward the centrist establishments of their own parties as they are toward their most distant ideological opponents. This presents an ominous possibility — namely that we may have entered an era in which polarization drives an emboldened left and right to flee the center and then provoke one another into a series of reactions and counter-reactions that make polarization ever-worse, ultimately producing a breakdown of liberal democratic government altogether. What form of government arises from that collapse is anyone's guess, but it isn't likely to be an improvement on the status quo.


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