“Angela Merkel announced yesterday that she will run for a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany. Due to a wave of support for populist and nationalist isolationism in the U.S. and Europe, Ms. Merkel has been called the last bastion of liberal democracy in the Western World. While Prime Minister Abe of Japan and Prime Minister Modi of India are prominent defenders of liberal democracy in the East, Ms. Merkel’s new liberal laurel must lie heavy on her weary head.
Neo-nazi, rightist, and racist nationalisms have risen for a decade or more worldwide. President Xi Jinping of China is promoting racial sovereignty and the extraterritorial reach of China’s authoritarian laws to non-citizens of Chinese descent in Thailand, Malaysia, and Kenya. 54% of Russians want “Russia for ethnic Russians.” The alt-right neo-nazi movement in the U.S. has a psychic affiliation and personal connections with the Trump Administration. The U.K. voted in June to exit the E.U., one of the most liberal democratic institutions of the 20th century. The E.U. was founded in direct opposition to wars of racist nationalism in 1930s and 1940s Europe, but those principles now seem to be crumbling.
The more politics breaks down from universal principles of human rights like democracy, free trade, free migration, and freedom of speech, all supported by the E.U. and the U.S. founders, into what Obama disparages as a “crude sort of nationalism” and nationalist Nigel Farage of the U.K. applauds as “nation state democracy,” the more international politics becomes a dangerous politics of happenstance. Political unity is increasingly based on identities like birthplace, language, and race, which individuals acquire randomly as a chance of birth, rather than universal principles of human rights and aspirations, which are outcomes of deliberation. When randomness and demagoguery is substituted for reason, liberal democracy and universal human rights are endangered.”