Wonkbook: Liberal democracy only dies when conservatives help

By Matt O’Brien Liberal democracy is not dead, but it’s not… | Sponsored by Uber
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(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images) By Matt O’Brien Liberal democracy is not dead, but it’s not well. From Hungary to Poland to even the United States, far-right populists have won power, and, in a few cases, are busy consolidating it. In some sense, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the worst economic crisis since the 1930s has led to the worst political crisis within liberal democracies since the 1930s. At the same time, though, it’s not as if right-wing nationalists are winning everywhere. Just in the last six months, they’ve come up short in Austria, the Netherlands, and now France. So why is it that these abundant raw materials for a far-right—stagnant incomes and increased immigration—haven’t always turned into a far-right that wins elections? I talked to Harvard’s Daniel Ziblatt, whose new book “Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy” traces the history of how the center-right often determines whether democracy lives or dies, about what’s behind our populist moment and just how close a parallel we’re running to some of history’s darkest episodes. His answer: It depends. In countries where the center-right is willing to quarantine the far-right, undemocratic forces should be politically neutralized. But when the center-right gives in to the temptation to try to use the far-right because it thinks that’s the only way it can win, then their Faustian bargain can end up like they all do: not as they expected. Mainstream conservatives might find out that they, and not the radicals, were the ones being manipulated. That they weren’t appeasing the far-right, but empowering it. Read the rest on Wonkblog.

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Why liberal democracy only dies when conservatives help
Throughout the 20th century, when European democracies teetered, the decisions of center-right conservatives determined whether they came back from the brink — or plunged into dictatorships.
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