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Is Western Democracy Threatening Suicide?

Some predict that a resilient liberal world order will rally to triumph over fear, xenophobia and fractured political parties – others say that support for autocratic alternatives is on the rise. Is Western democracy threatening suicide?

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Overview

Do the populist and nationalist uprisings that led to Donald Trump and Brexit signal Western democracy’s certain decline? Or can recent events be seen as part of a healthy and regenerative antidote to policies that have challenged liberal institutions and marginalized the middle class? Some predict that a resilient liberal world order will rally to triumph over fear, xenophobia and fractured political parties – others say that support for autocratic alternatives is on the rise. Is Western democracy threatening suicide? Arguing for the motion is Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher and journalist with Yascha Mounk, author of "The People vs. Democracy." Arguing against the motion is Clive Crook, a columnist at Bloomberg View with Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at American Enterprise Institute. John Donvan moderates. This conversation was taped on October 3, 2017.

FOR:
· Xenophobia, racism, and nationalism are on the rise. From support of far-right candidates in France and Brexit in Europe to the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., people around the world are embracing policies and attitudes that are inconsistent with liberal democracy.
· The liberal world order is losing ground. Long a beacon of democracy around the world, the United States is turning its back on global institutions and leaving room for alternative powers, such as China and Russia, to seize influence.
· Fed up with economic challenges of globalism and dismayed by the power of the political elite, Westerners are embracing social change over political stability and - increasingly - considering alternatives to elected democratic leadership.
· With his executive orders on immigration, attacks on the free press, condemnation of court decisions, and firing of James Coney, President Donald Trump has challenged democratic traditions and exposed weaknesses in America's political system.

AGAINST:
· The populism and nationalism that brought about Donald Trump and Brexit does not pose a threat to liberal democracy. Rather, these events represent the legitimate exercise of power by frustrated voters who feel their nations have gone off-course.
· The Trump administration has strengthened democratic institutions both at home and abroad. Rather than ceding power to an unconventional leader, institutions ranging from global governance organizations to local courts have gained popular support and kept the White House in check.
· A resurgence of far-right ideologues has energized citizens around the world to engage in the democratic process. Through support of establishment political parties and civil society organizations, these citizens are strengthening their democracies and combating the xenophobia and racism that has long been present in their countries and in politics.
Western democracy is not merely defined by American global leadership. America's allies, including France and Germany, are poised to assume the role of safeguards of the liberal world order as the United States turns inward.

About

John Donvan (Host and Moderator): The moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S. debates since 2008, John Donvan is an author and correspondent for ABC News. He has served as ABC’s White House Correspondent, along with postings in Moscow, London, Jerusalem, and Amman. John is the coauthor of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism (Crown, 2016). In addition to premiering his first one-man show, “Lose the Kid,” in 2013 in Washington, D.C., John is a four-time Emmy Award winner and was a National Magazine Award finalist in 2010.

Bernard-Henri Lévy (For the Motion) is a philosopher, activist, and filmmaker. His most recent book, "The Genius of Judaism," was published in January 2017 by Random House. His New York Times best-sellers include "American Vertigo," "Barbarism with a Human Face," and "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" His writing has appeared in a wide range of publications throughout Europe and the United States. His films include the documentaries "Bosna!," "The Oath of Tobruk," "Peshmerga," and "The Battle of Mosul." Lévy is co-founder of the antiracist group SOS Racisme. He has served on diplomatic missions for the French government.

By This Expert

Yascha Mounk (For the Motion) is an associate professor of Practice of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University and a postdoctoral fellow at the German Marshall Fund. A columnist at Slate and the host of The Good Fight podcast, he is an expert on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. He is also the author of “The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It.”

By This Expert

Kori Schake (Against the Motion) is a senior fellow and the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Schake is the former deputy director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. She has worked at the US State Department, the US Department of Defense, and the National Security Council at the White House. Author of five books, most recently “America vs the West: Can the Liberal World Order Be Preserved?,”Dr. Schake is widely published in policy journals and the popular press. She has a PhD in government and politics from the University of Maryland.

By This Expert

Clive Crook (Against the Motion) is a Bloomberg View columnist and writes editorials on economics, finance and politics. Prior to this, he served as a senior editor at The Atlantic, and as the chief Washington commentator for Financial Times.  He worked for more than 20 years at The Economist, as economics correspondent, Washington correspondent, economics editor, and deputy editor.  In that last role he guided the magazine’s editorial line across its interests in business, politics, and international relations. He previously served as an official in the British finance ministry and the Government Economic Service.

By This Expert

Debate: Is Western Democracy Threatening Suicide?

01: Debate: Is Western Democracy Threatening Suicide?

Some predict that a resilient liberal world order will rally to triumph over fear, xenophobia and fractured political parties – others say that support for autocratic alternatives is on the rise. Is Western democracy threatening suicide?

92 min