Although I generally agree with Pat Buchanan in his observations about the world, lately I’ve been a bit confused about his comments on “democracy.” Whether Buchanan is telling us, as in April, that democracy is in a “death spiral” or more recently, that it’s “a dying species,” I’m not sure that he’s providing a consistent concept of his key term. In April, Buchanan lamented that “in Washington our two-party system in in gridlock. Comity and collegiality are vanishing.” Meanwhile “across Europe splinter parties arise and ‘illiberal democracies’ take power.” Buchanan is right that moral and social consensus is breaking down in Western countries; and to whatever extent it is still present, it is being increasingly imposed from above. The ones who typically take a lead here are social engineers working for public administration and the educational and media establishments. Moreover, citizens have become increasingly disempowered as the permanent governing class takes over society, and at least sporadic reactions have set in with the rise of a populist Right.
If this is indeed what is now happening, then present trends toward intrusive bureaucratic government providing “democratic” socialization and diversity-training will not likely be reversed in the near future. This form of rule continues to elicit electoral approval, and those who vote for governments favoring multiculturalism and the enforcement of PC are more numerous than those who oppose it. In the recently concluded national election in Canada, more people voted for parties of the Left, which favor all the policies that Buchanan and I deplore, than supported the bland conservative opposition. (Populist alternatives hardly exist and have no purchase north of our border.) In Germany the admission of a million and a half Third World migrants, which initially caused cries of outrage against Merkel’s leadership, failed to produce a stampede toward the Right. Quite the contrary! Although the immigration-critical AfD gained about two to three points in most of Germany as a result of Merkel’s immigration policy, far bigger gains have accrued to the leftist, antinational, and pro-immigration Greens. In our presidential race in 2016, more votes went to the candidate of the left, Hillary Clinton, than to Trump.
Although the populace has been conditioned by key social and cultural institutions to vote as they do, those who exercise this right do have other electoral choices. Once in the voting booth, they could throw their support to the non-establishment Right. That they generally prefer a socially leftist, immigration-friendly establishment may indicate something about “the people.” No one put a gun to the heads of French voters when over 66% of them voted against the nationalist Marine Le Pen for the candidate of the Left and the globalists Emmanuel Macron. And the majority of those votes came from the indigenous French, not from Third World immigrants, who make up less than ten percent of the French voting population.
Buchanan’s more recent column about democracy’s “death spiral” brings up another question: Is Buchanan speaking about the disintegration of our current managerial democracies or about something else? His column cites Chilean workers in Santiago rioting over a 5% rise in subway tolls, Hong Kong residents protesting the removal of their freedoms by the mainland Chinese government, the sometimes violent demonstration of the Yellow Vests in Paris and other French cities over the government-imposed rise in fuel coasts, and the efforts of the Catalan independence movement to make their territory independent of the rest of Spain. Although these are all newsworthy events, it’s not clear that they show that our current version of democracy is collapsing. What they prove is the presence of other developments: e.g., the weakening of historic nation-states, the limits of Chinese authoritarian rule, and/or popular impatience with public administration.
Mind you, I am not writing as a “democracy-booster” or as a fan of the present understanding of democratic government, which is certainly open to criticism. I’ve my own idea about what a democracy should be; and it’s much closer to the nineteenth-century Swiss model or Jefferson’s society of yeoman farmers than it is to what the U.S., France, Canada, or Germany have become. But Buchanan leaves me unconvinced about the direction in which we’re headed politically when he observes:
If the beneficiaries of freedoms and democratic rights come to regard them as insufficient to produce the political, economic and social results they demand, what does that portend for democracy’s future?
Perhaps a reasonable answer to this question at least in Western countries is that we can expect “more of the same.” A majority of the French, for example, are not about to vote for the Rassemblement National because the yellow vests protested, any more than these voters threw their support to the populist Right when Third-World immigrants rioted in the Paris suburbs a few years ago. Canada is not about to go populist, and our own non-establishment president can’t bring his poll numbers above water. Perhaps western populations are too complacent in the face of an establishment that they should oust. But that doesn’t mean (far from it) that the “system” is in danger.