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PLENARY 1: Make Democracy Great Again
Dr. Shlomo Avineri, Professor of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Hon. Ömer Çelik, Minister for European Union Affairs, Turkey
The Right Hon. Sir Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, United Kingdom
Walter Russell Mead, Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute; James Clarke Chace Professor, Bard College; and Editor-At-Large, The American Interest
Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs
Jonathan Tepperman: Hi everyone. Sorry about that. Thank you very much for your patience. I’ve been told that there’s a rumour going around that that was done deliberately to simulate the experience of waiting for a Donald Trump rally to begin. I can assure you that’s not the case. We’re just living in a topsy-turvy time now and things are a little bit ragged, as you could imagine.
I want to start with a brief public service announcement. This is now the sixth year, it’s the eighth year of the forum, it’s the sixth year that Foreign Affairs has been a media partner for the forum and that I’ve been here. And of course, as I’m sure you all agree, this is by far the strangest moment that we’ve ever met here. It is also the least understood and probably most nerve wracking moment for many of you that any of us can remember.
All this confusion makes the work that you all do, the work that we do at Foreign Affairs, but also the work that this extraordinary forum does more important than ever and it makes the values that we are here to represent and reinforce more important than ever. So I’m personally thrilled to be a part of it, and I hope that you are as well.
As you all know, the topic for this panel is Make Democracy Great Again, and I want to make sure that I get it right, so let me dress for success. I brought something to put you all in the mood. This is a, my Make Democracy Great Again hat. I was going to wear it myself, but I thought maybe one of you would, would, no.
Unidentified Male: It looks great on you. It looks great on you. (laughter)
Jonathan Tepperman: Too soon, you think? Okay.
Look, these are, these are bewildering times. In recent months, voters around the world have defied pollsters, have rejected elites and overthrown the status quo in country after country. Now, lots of people, especially those elites that were overthrown find this all to be terrifying. The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, I think captured this fear, channeled it the best, when he wrote on November 9th, the day after the election, “The election of Donald Trump to the presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American Republic, a tragedy for the constitution, and a triumph for the forces at home and abroad of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the presidency is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy”, and on and on.
So that’s one view. But it’s hardly the only view. So let me read to you another take on what we’ve just experienced. “2016 is the year of the political revolution. I’ve been dreaming of this for a couple of decades. I’ve also known that whatever our political class and their friends in the media and big business do and say and want, is not the same as what ordinary, hardworking taxpayers want. And what you’ve seen this year is just ordinary, decent people, the little people saying we’ve had enough. We want change.”
That was the great political philosopher and former head of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, speaking to FOX News on November 13th. So who’s right? And what should we do about it? That’s the conversation that we need to have today.
Let me introduce the great minds who are going to help us sort this through. Starting from my far right, Shlomo Avineri is professor of Politic Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Sir Michael Fallon you already know. he’s the UK Secretary of State for Defence; and Minister Ömer Çelik is Turkey’s Minister for European Affairs and a close adviser to President Erdogan; and finally, we have Walter Russell Mead, the Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute, professor at Bard College and Editor-at-Large at the American Interest.
I want to start by asking you all sort of a diagnostic question, and then we’re going to get into some prescriptive questions. So Michael, I’d like to start with you, if I may. Which of the two narratives that I just sketched out is correct? Has 2016 been a vindication of democracy or a defeat for democracy?
Sir Michael Fallon: Well, I think I said we have to respect the will of the people, and we can’t argue. You can argue, you can argue whether or not referendums are sensible things. What you can’t do is argue with the result of a referendum once you have it there. But I think, you know, there is a connection between what has been happening in some of the democratic processes in Europe, and what’s just happened here in the United States.
There is a disconnect in our politics now and our political systems, something to do with the rise of social media that, people feeling disenfranchised since the beginning of the financial crisis. And the various mechanisms we have through which we respect and guide the consent of the people who elect us in democracies, some of those mechanisms look a little antiquated and may need, may need refreshing. That may apply to the media where the role of journalism and responsible television and so on may have diminished in the pluralism we now see in the media. It may also apply to some of our political and parliamentary systems, our voting structures and so on.
So I think this is a moment where, you know, we should respect and reflect on, you know, the power of the people. It was, though I’m talking too long, but it was the philosopher Freidrich Hayek actually who disliked the term democracy. He preferred demarcy (ph) or not even demarcy, because demos of course in Ancient Greece, was the mob, and kratos is the naked force of the mob. And he used, and of course, you know, the great philosophers warned us against democracy and the abuse of the 49% by the 51%. And it is those mechanisms that protect us again the tyranny of the 51%, I think that have fallen into some disrepair. We may need to, to improve them.
Jonathan Tepperman: Walter, I want to ask you a question, which is effectively a follow-up, which is is there such a thing as too much democracy? After all, democracy can produce undemocratic outcomes, as we’ve seen in countries like Venezuela. And in the case of a referendum like the Brexit vote, it put a highly complicated and technical issue before a public, some of which may not have understood it.
Walter Russell Mead: Well, I’m not going to comment on the EU referendum in the UK. That’s really their business and the British have been running their country for a vey long time, we assume they know how to do it. But I do think looking at the American system, which, which I know a little bit better is that certainly our democracy wouldn’t work without our constitution. And the constitution that sets limits to the powers of representatives, of senators and presidents, a judicial system that is independent, yet not ultimately completely unresponsive to political pressure, that I think over 200 years has managed sometimes with some very sharp stresses to keep our system more or less going.
I haven’t seen anything in 2016 yet that makes me thing that that system is failing or in danger, but I would certainly I have seen plenty in 2016 that makes me very glad that we have it.
Jonathan Tepperman: Minister Çelik, Turkey is a NATO member and a key western ally. Turkey, of course, also lives in a very dangerous neighbourhood and faces tremendous threats and dangers from the civil war in Syria, from terrorism, from the huge number of refugees that have entered Turkey in, since the civil war in Syria began and most recently, from a military coup. And yet, it seems to many of us here in the west, that Turkey has responded to these threats by becoming less democratic, cracking down on civil servants, academics, journalists and limiting the space for civil liberties in, in other ways.
Is it true? Is Turkey becoming less democratic and if not, what are we in the west missing? What don’t we understand?
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Turkish language)
Translator: Let me draw the picture.
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Turkish language)
Translator: In my country,
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Turkish language)
Translator: (inaudible) 195 kilometres
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Turkish language)
Translator: You cross the border.
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Translator) (inaudible) is, well criticism turned to be very conformist way and we need to ask the questions to ourselves how are we going to support democracies with solidarity? It’s okay to criticize each other. Turkey has some criticisms too. It’s the democratic right to criticize one another. Okay.
But think of a European country, I mean Turkey, which has a century long Europ-, democratic history and this country endures a coup attempt. And where were our allies? They were not with us. They were just issuing statements, but that’s not how we make progress.
With respect to solidarity against terrorism, Turkey is a country on her own facing such serious threats and dangers. This is on our border; this is not from far away in Mosul or in Aleppo. Even the smallest military movement results in thousands, tens of thousands of people flooding into Turkey and we have open doors policy, open borders policy.
Civilian politics and terror, where to draw the line. Some politicians, can they really support terrorism? Are they allowed to support terrorism? In Turkey, with respect to freedom of press, there is some criticism against Turkey. Okay, but me as a Minister, I make a call for the Europeans to sit down, to talk about freedom of press in Turkey by opening chapter 23 and 24 in our negotiations with the EU. I want to sit down with the EU and talk about this. but if we’re not able to produce any concrete and positive agenda, if it continues to hear criticism, this is all about conformism.
We’re trying to ensure Turkey’s security, we’re trying to ensure western alliance security and European security. We, when we protect our democracy at the same time, we protect the democracy of the west too. Three million refugees we host in Turkey. Can you imagine that many refugees going to Europe? Can you imagine what would happen? Only yesterday, 365 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean. Compare and contrast this with three million people we host at the same time we are fighting against terrorism. So one needs to understand Turkey under these circumstances.
Jonathan Tepperman: Many Israelis now fear that Israel is also, in its own way, becoming less democratic. Are you worried that recent elections in the United States and elsewhere, the trend that we’re seeing is going to make things worse in a country like Israel, or in other places? What I mean is has the recent turmoil made the western democratic model less attractive?
Dr. Shlomo Avineri: I think we’re dealing with a universal phenomenon. And if I may just recall what once Mark Twain said when his candidate for the presidency was not elected. He was asked how do you feel? He said well, the people have spoken, the bastards. (laughter)
So, now we have to respect vox populi. But I think there are three challenges here, and Israel is part of that, but I think the major issue is really in the United States. We’ve seen some (inaudible) in the United States doing the Brexit campaign and developments in France, even in Germany and Hungary and Poland.
Three things. First of all, the major pillar of representative democracy are the mediating institutions, mainly political parties, a free press, a pluralistic press, universities, academics, civil society, trades unions, all of them in the western democracies have been weakened in the last decades and some of them are even viewed as corrupt and alienated from the people. That’s point number one.
Point number two, the difference between Athenian direct democracy was the people voted in the Algoa (ph), among other things, to execute Socrates. I mean, this was democracy. And modern representative democracy, there are those mediating institutions.
Unidentified Male: Exactly.
Dr. Shlomo Avineri: And with the social, with social networks, we see something like a virtual direct democracy. Not in the Algoa, not on the mark and play, marking place, but just in front of your Facebook Accounts or Brexit, I think we are moving towards something which can be called Brexit democracy. Maybe there’s going to be a Brexit democracy, no. A Twitter democracy. Excuse me.
We may soon have an American Twitter President, I do not know. The ability of political leaders, be it in the UK during the referendum, and the United States and in France, to speak directly to the people beyond political structures, beyond Parliament, beyond elected representation, create something which is akin to the dangers of the direct democracy.
And point number three, some of the people who feel alienated in western democracies, from the political structures are also the victims of globalization and the kind of unbridled capitalism which we have seen in the west. I mean, this is, to my mind, this is one of the major mistakes of the Democratic Party in the United States that didn’t realize also as a people who were once called a working class and they were now called uneducated or white workers without a college education, which is a very, it’s a very pejorative way of addressing what once was called the masses, the people, the working class. So we have to address those three issues and (inaudible) universe.
Jonathan Tepperman: Walter, you’re an expert on, and have written very well, about American populace and it strikes me the best way to deal with the threat of populism in the first place, is to prevent its rise through good government policies which addresses and short circuits the kind of anger that would give rise to a populace movement. But what can we do once the genie has been let out of the bottle, as it seems to have been today? At that point, how do you capture it again. Are good economic and social policies enough or is something more dramatic required?
Walter Russell Mead: I think it’s important that we understand that we’re not just passing through, I think, a little hiccup, a little problem with the GDP this year or something like that. After the Second World War, in the industrial west, we discovered a sort of a new method of mass production, mass employment, mass affluence resting on sort of vast clerical labour, vast manufacturing labour that was pretty well paid, pretty secure. The average citizen could expect confidently to have something very much like lifetime employment at a gradually rising standard of living and this was, this was at the time, seen as an almost miraculous resolution of 150 years of bitter social and ethnic conflict, particularly in Europe.
And in 1989, with the end of the Soviet Union, people talking about the end of history, people didn’t realize that even at that moment, this system had already begun to break down. The automation, globalization of, of production of the economic basis for the mass stability and mass prosperity has been gradually eroded. So we don’t, we’re actually at the present moment, we do not have a social model that we simply sort of pull out a set of policies ah ha, I shall make you happy.
Human society is once again in unknown waters just as people were in the 1910s, 20s, 30s, where problems are coming at us that are immense, that are new, that don’t have simple solutions and yet, we have all been socialized through our lives to think yes, the answers to social problems are known, they can say one simply goes to the economics textbooks, the social policy textbooks and one pulls out the well known tested answers and applies them.
This is not the situation that we’re in. So when I think of, I don’t think that we simply pass a couple of reforms and now the populace will all go back to the rabble, will all go back to their homes because we’ve distributed a few, a little bread and circuses. I think actually we have to begin thinking about what is, the 21st century is, as going to be, is likely to be as turbulent, as dangerous, as interesting and perhaps ultimately as helpful as the 20th, but something very large is happening and it would be, I think, very unwise for us to try to minimize this and say oh, there really are just a couple of economic reforms and, you know, a little bit, a couple of Euro bonds and it will all go away. It’s not really that simple.
Jonathan Tepperman: Sir Michael, you’re somebody who thinks, spends his days thinking about defence and security and foreign policy. Clearly, we in the west have a tremendous amount of work now to do to get our own houses in order. Do you worry that that will lead to a retrenchment and less focus on other people’s problems and on international issues as we redirect our focus inward?
Sir Michael Fallon: I do worry about that because I see the same distrust of representative democracy coming into decision about whether states should go to war, whether they trust their, their elected representatives to make these decisions on their behalf, and we’ve seen critical votes on whether we should intervene or should have intervened much earlier in Syria, both here and, and indeed in the States. And it looks as if, you know, in future, we will have to make the case all over again for how we commit our armies to our defence and how we win popular consent for those so-called boots on the ground.
If I may respond to, you know, I’ve agreed with, you know, almost everything I’ve heard, but I’m not quite as pessimistic. I think our democracies have been through enormous changes, the extension of the franchise and so on. And I think the real issue is are our respective constitutions – and the Turkish constitution has been under enormous pressure – are our respective constitutions supple enough to adapt to this distrust of representative democracy, this very strong feeling that people want to be involved and decide things more instantly and I’m prepared to trust some of the existing processes.
Now, we describe President-elect Trump as the most powerful person on Earth, but he’s not all powerful. You have a Congress and you have a judiciary that is still able to exercise constraint . In our own Parliament, the Brexit now has to be put into practice by a Prime Minister who voted against it under that system. Can we extend those suppleties, suppleness, if that’s the right word, in our constitution to deal with these issues and above, can we find ways of helping countries like Turkey deal with some of the extremes of, of religion, that aren’t prepared to live under a constitution at all.
Jonathan Tepperman: Well, we’re about to live through that political science experiment in real time, but the stakes are very high. So it’s going to be both fascinating and, and potentially frightening as well.
I have more questions, but I want to open up the floor to the audience. We have microphones circulating, so just wait till I call on you and then give us your name and affiliation please. The gentleman right at the back there.
Question: Hi. Vago Muradian from Defence and Aerospace Report. The question that I have is what about the outright manipulation of news, social media feeds that have false content? President Obama discussed that just recently in Berlin. And the second question is Russia’s efforts throughout Europe to systemically undermine the status quo, whether it’s the European Union, whether it’s support for right, left, environmental, all sorts of movements, to sort of undermine the status quo and the very structure on, of western democracies. And you saw that in the United States also, you could argue, with the hacking incident.
Jonathan Tepperman: But let’s, you want us to start, let’s start with the news, if we, if we could because, you know, it’s one thing to talk about solutions that governments can apply, but of course, governments have no control over the news media. So that may be a hard place to effect change. Shlomo.
Dr. Shlomo Avineri: Two foreign (inaudible), the Russian connection, I think there is a certain danger in the way in which it appears, and in being careful in which it appears that Russia is trying to undermine the credibility of democratic institutions and regimes in the west. And whether the fact that the President-elect of the United States seems to be a little more forgiving for this issue, just adds to our concern and trying to be very, very delicate on that, especially when it comes to some of his possible appointments.
On the first issue, on the social media, I think we have to find, and one has to be very creative, as Sir Michael said earlier, how our institutions are going to adapt to a very new kind of situation. We be-, all of us believe in the freedom of the press, but the press was always not just anarchic, what we call the traditional press, the traditional media, were always a filter between what the people were shouting on the streets and what the media were transmitting because there was editorial control, there was competition.
So social media, by creating sort of the direct democracy, everybody, regardless of his or her (inaudible) can speak to millions on that, and we don’t want to control it. Perhaps what we need – and this is going to be part of the future discussion and debate – is that some of the media enterprises like Facebook, like Twitter, may have to think seriously about self-regulation, not government regulation, not censorship, but with the enormous power of, of an organization like Facebook comes some sort of responsibility.
I’ve seen that Zuckerberg has been a little bit defensive in the last few days, which is okay, which means that he begins to understand that his organization has a responsibility and part of the public debate, not governmental pressure, but part of public debate is starting to put pressure on this huge organization to be a little self-critical and create some self-controlling mechanism; not government, but doing it through civil society, through a new social contract, not between the government and the people, but between those huge organizations, just in the way in which after the 1929 crash, there was a consensus that major corporations and enterprises have to be a little bit more careful about using their power, which was at that time, economic power.
Now there is a way of saying to those organizations that they have to be a little bit self-conscious of the, if you wish, intellectual and political power. Not from the outside, but from – and this should be part of the public debate, not trying to control those things from the government – I want to make it very clear – but to put pressure on them to create a mechanism of filtering, of control, of balance. Difficult, but it’s a new challenge.
Sir Michael Fallon: Well, I agree with that exactly. We have social media that are not media now, they’re not mediating, they’re not filtering. That introduces an element of kind of relativism in that anybody’s crackpot theory is just as valid as, as something where the facts have actually been tested. And we will have to look first of all to these organizations to, to introduce some responsibility into what they’re doing because they are part, whether they like it or not, they are part of the democratic process and they’ll have to play that part.
On the, the Russian question, I have long argued that we are being, we’re being outgunned here by the scale and indeed the speed of Russian propaganda and interference, now not just, you know, stuff being pumped over a border, but direct interference in some of our democratic processes, which we saw in the Netherlands, I think and interference in that particular referendum on the Ukraine, and we’re beginning to see in some of the other elections.
We’re going to have to look at ways of getting out what I call a faster truth of getting the facts on the ground out there, even if it means sharing some of our precious intelligence and imagery, even if it means sharing it more widely. We’re going to have to combat what is going on.
Jonathan Tepperman: Walter?
Walter Russell Mead: Yean, I guess I would just like to register a slight concern about the idea that somehow getting the social media companies to exert more responsibility would, would fix this problem. I think ultimately, the only, your only real guarantee against popular illusion and madness is the common sense of ordinary people. And yes, it’s true, Twitter and Facebook have brought this kind of avalanche of new content out there, and it’s a little bit destabilizing but ultimate it’s the common sense of ordinary people who sort of start distinguish between fake news and actual news and start demanding a little bit more.
If we can’t count on that, then I think democracy may be a doomed experiment. So I would tend to, to be a little shy from these, because the other thing will be alright, people will now start tweeting or going to different social media platforms and saying this is a story they don’t want you to know and that ends up being, sort of, more compelling and more credible. So I, I kind of, we’ve really got to work with the common sense of average person is the foundation of social order and democracy, I think.
Jonathan Tepperman: Right here in front, please.
Question: Thank you. Josef Joffe from Hamburg, Germany, Die Zeit. I want to come back to the nature of the revolution here, which seems to be the consensus. Now, populism was invented in the United States, late 19th century. It was a clear regional class struggle, and it was dealt with in the classical ways that farmers hurt by globalisations and the railroads and the banks, a set of economic reforms were taken by both parties which absorbed and integrated the first great populace revolt, where by the way the presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan almost, almost won the election.
Now, I think it was a class of regional issue. I’m not sure we are talking about a class issue here because you can’t call 50% of the American electorate the downtrodden proletariat, or let’s call it the Trumpen proletariat. Okay? No way this works. Nor does it work in all the other countries. Maybe it’s a cultural, maybe it’s a cultural war. And if it is a cultural war directed against us sitting in this room, the elite who’ve told people how to speak and think and behave, do we as the elite have anything to regret and to change in the way we deal with the other half of the population?
Jonathan Tepperman: (inaudible).
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Translator) There are some democratic consequences. If we explain them only by means of populism within the scope of populism, then this falls short of giving us a full explanation. In a sense, populism for decision makers, intellectuals, when they fail to do their job, they shield against this concept of populism. One needs to see the picture clearly.
People on the street, ordinary people for quite some time as ordinary citizens trying to take decisions but they are not able to manage their governments or administrations. They vote once. By the time the next voting time comes, no one comes and knocks on their door, but there are some extreme tendencies. Those people with extreme sentiments go and knock their doors every day trying to understand their feelings and emotions.
The problem at the moment is we’re in Canada, so let’s refer to Charles Taylor. Democracy is about participation and it is there for a certain result. This has to be participatory. If people don’t believe in it, then as Charles Taylor says, people go and vote with a certain feeling of reaction and hatred and despair. For quite a long time, as ordinary citizens, voters are not able to reflect their opinions in the way they’re governed.
They are considered as ordinary individuals who are there just to vote and not to say anything else, not to have a say in the management of the country. This is the crisis of modern world. How can we reach out to the ordinary people on the streets? This is the question. It’s easy to criticize the results, of course, but those who voted for Mr. Trump or other people in other countries casting their votes, what are they after?
If you’re just interested in meeting their economic needs that is not going to meet their emotional needs. There are fears, there are concerns. Today, globalization is used interchangeably with the term democracy, but globalization, think of the rise of the tide that now democracy is not lifting up all the boats like the up tide. Some, some are capsized, some are lifted up. This results in lack of confidence. What does the man on the street have to expect.
So we cannot explain everything by populism. This is just too easy as an answer. No. Democracy needs to give hope again to the people on the street. If politics cannot give any hope to ordinary people, then I’m sorry to say that we will have to go back to the period between the first world war and the second world war.
Question: Thank you. Rachel Kleinfeld, Carnegie Endowment. A lot of the norms and institutions that you’ve all been talking about to protect democracy rely on leadership. They rely on individuals in those positions to stand up and uphold the norms of their democratic positions rather than their own ideologies. And in many cases, that leadership has been absent and I agree with our Turkish panelists that the fact of gridlock in so many of our countries and the fact that leaders have been so partisan while getting so little done is part of the reaction to, that we’re seeing right now.
And so I wonder in each of these countries how are you going to harness the ability of leaders to stand up for their institutions rather than their parties, rather than the factions that our founding fathers were so worried about and how do you give them the courage to do that? and Jonathan is smiling cause his book talks quite a lot about leadership. But I would like to know for each of these countries, including our own, how we get our leaders from both parties to start acting in ways that will actually help people?
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Translator) Actually, people react to certain things, there is reaction. It’s what they react against is not really democracy. I think it is partyocracy what they react against. Political party system they are reacting against. My point is what I call as partyocracy is think of political parties and the voters. Political parties cannot read the modern needs of voters. They cannot read the new dynamism. That’s what I mean.
For example, think of the needs of the youth. Politics fall short of reading their needs. After Cold War era and after 1980s, political parties were able to set up a scheme and that’s how they appear before the voters, trying to understand their identity but they’re not able to read their needs. People on the street react against partyocracy at the moment. Politics needs to get closer to the people on the street. This is through participation, through social media, through internet, through other means. We need a higher outreach. We need to listen to the needs of the people more.
So that is how we can go back to democracy again. That’s how we can manage the process right. The politics must be having the leadership, not the politicians. If politics cannot play the leadership, politicians’ leadership will not be sufficient either.
Question: Pauline (inaudible), UK. I agree very much with what’s been said so far about the inadequacies of the political mechanisms under which we’ve been rather traditional operating, but it does seem to me that there’s another side to all of this. It’s received rather less attention so far in the discussion, which is economic.
We are, I think, in the, at the very beginning really of a major technological revolution, which is going to abolish many more jobs than have so far been, have so far disappeared. And the effects on society of that unchecked, and uncompensated for, are going to be very great, and they will have their political effects. We already see it in the forms of widening inequalities, which will get much greater if we don’t take some measures.
And it seems to be a long way, you know, the various ways in which you could communicate better with the population. There’s also the question of what, the policies the governments need to pursue. And surely one of them is you need to upskill the population and the citizen, actually, to be able to face this economic future which is rushing towards us.
So there’s a whole, seems to me, a whole revamping of the functions of government in the area of education, policy, and of, or indeed of employment practice, apprenticeships, which in the absence of doing that side of things as well, for all the great communications they have, it seems to me that actually democracy will still fail its populations.
I’d like to hear what you think about the whole economic side of this issue.
Jonathan Tepperman: Well, I think you’ve just answered your own question, and better than perhaps any of us would. So I’d like to take another question because you stated it so well. This gentleman right here.
Question: Hi. My name is Ram Madhav. I come from India, I’m the General Secretary of the ruling BJP there.
Obviously, I come from the world’s largest democracy, and also I am proud to claim the most successful democracy in the last 70 years we all practise in our country. This whole title perplexes a little bit Make Democracy Great Again. It was a general statement about improving this quality of our democracy. Fair enough. Our first Prime Minister (inaudible) commented that democracy is the second best ever (inaudible).
The first (inaudible) was yet to be invented. So that is the whole argument. We are now (inaudible) feedback. But it is in the specific context of what happened in USA or what happened in UK of what’s being planned in some European countries. If that is the context in which you are saying democracy has to be made great again. One of the questions probably how to be put is how to make liberal politics great again. I think the liberal politics has lost connect with the larger masses. It also has begun practising a kind of identity politics that has hate in it, there is identity related issues in it, probably it has lost larger connect with the masses. That’s what we feel.
So to make democracy great here, you have to make liberal politics great again. to make democracy great here, you have to make media great here. Probably media has lost contact with the masses. Social media is probably representing the masses in a bigger way.
And the last point I want to make on a lighter side is probably you have to make (inaudible) also great again. Thank you.
Hon. Ömer Çelik: In my opinion, the point you raised, what you said, that is the essence of the whole discussion. That’s the essence of this debate. There is a disconnect between large masses and democracy. There are concrete examples of this. The financial crisis of 2008, you know, rather than protecting the victims of the crisis, the perpetrators behind the crisis were bailed out. Those who fell victim were revictimized in order to bail out the companies. How can we expect those people to trust in democracy? We cannot expect this.
Within the system, we should be able to make the voice of those people heard. I was referring to the crisis of the modern world. We have to rediscuss new liberalism. New liberalism economizes democracy and politics. It’s all about economics, economy policies, so feelings, identity and its reflection on governments come to deadlock. In economic crisis, rather than saving taxpayers, we’re trying to save the enterprises, but this is required by the system. This is necessary for the sustaining of the system.
So that is how we have a disconnect. This partyocracy. In such circumstances, when you put ballot boxes in front of people, people would vote with reaction, with despair. And then you would ask yourself why we get the result out of the voting. This cannot be explained by populism only.
So we are entering into uncertainty, into a risky period. This can turn into an opportunity. We can overcome this deadlock. We need to overcome the crisis of representative democracy. The only way out is to deepen the democracy. We need to go down to the street level. That is how we can get out of this.
Jonathan Tepperman: (off microphone) running short on time.
Dr. Shlomo Avineri: If I just may make a comment to what Minister Çelik said. I’m very careful because Israel and Turkey are now in better relations so I don’t want to appear as if creating a new crisis. (laughter) So, so I would suggest that we use the term partyocracy to understand what you’re saying, carefully. Because basically, parties and the multiplicity of parties, this is a column, a major column of democracy. So the question now is not parties, but the question is how do parties relate to the real needs of, of the people? Or are the parties considered to be a new oligarchy, as they have been in some, in some countries.
And this brings me in a way to a footnote to what Jo Joffe has said earlier. I don’t think there’s a 51% who voted for, for Trump, the downtrodden and alienated. But let’s say 30% of them are the traditional voters of the Republican Party. The question is how did this party, which is a minority party in the United States, become victorious? And this is because a lot of people, and I do not have the data, 10, 15%, perhaps 12% of people who voted traditionally for the Democratic Party moved to the populist, if you wish, (inaudible) of, of Trump and this is really part of the alienation of this group of people who historically were one of the fundamentals of the voting blocks of the Democratic Party.
So we need also to think seriously in political parties, and to liberal parties have to think seriously why are they, have been viewed as being alienated from a mass of people. And I think the same happened in Britain in Brexit, and may happen or already happening in France when you look at some of the voters for, potentially voters from (inaudible).
And I’m very careful if I’m making this, a comment because we are not in 1933. But one of the things that one has to realize, that one of the reasons for the rise of Nazis and (inaudible) said people who traditionally voted for the socialist and communist voted in 1932 for Hitler. And Mussolini came from the socialist party’s government. So this sort of populism is, if we call by a polite name, is a way of distorted criticism of the alienation of people and the political parties today and the political establishment and the historical media don’t always respond to them.
One last point about public opinion polls. The headline news in the United States and also in Britain, before the plebiscite in Britain, referendum in Britain and the lection in the United states were not news about what’s happening but news about public opinion polls. And we, we have to understand – and I’m saying it as a political scientist – that the difference between political science and public opinion polls is like the difference between astronomy and astrology. (laughter) You look at the same stuff, but the methodology is slightly different.
So public opinion polls are a very important tool, but one has to take them with a grain of salt, especially when one talks about margins of 3 to 4%, where we know this is a statistical built-in distortion when 10 or 15% don’t tell you how they’re going to vote. So one has to, not to take them as the indicator what’s really happening. What’s happening is what’s happening on the ground. And I think one of the editors of the New York Times said a few days ago, that they were shocked and wanted to (inaudible) they didn’t really talk to the people out there. They were sitting at their office looking at the computers and looking at the astrology consequences.
And that’s why they were out of touch with what was really happening and obviously, everybody who looked at what was happening socially in the United States, in the UK and other countries would have come without very sophisticated, statistical (inaudible) but just being in the old fashioned impressionistic journalistic (inaudible) that something is happening there in terms of alienation.
And this is now to be overcome.
Jonathan Tepperman: I’ve just been told that we’re almost out of time. So Walter, it falls to you to wrap things up.
Walter Russell Mead: Alright, well let me sort of come back to this scheme of liberalism and alienation that I think has been running through our conversation. You know, we like to think of democracy as a sort of all sufficient solution to the human condition, to the human problem of, of government and community, but in fact, it’s a very imperfect one if it is one at all.
And you know, just do a thought experiment, if the entire world’s population of seven or eight billion each, we each had an equal vote in determining the governance of the world, that would mean that each of us as individuals, would be absolutely helpless before a tyranny of global majority that we could neither effect nor control, or even really speak to. And so there’s a sense in which mass democracy becomes, you know, becomes a kind of an alienating phenomena.
I think in some ways, in the west particularly, but, but not only in the west, by elevating liberalism itself as a kind of, as the all sufficient ideology, we end up stressing up that alienation. We make process the sort of object of our veneration but in fact what makes democracy work are all the things that Shlomo talked about in his first intervention, those smaller civic communities. But additionally, ethnic loyalties and, and national feelings of culture and community that you, it seems to me when you, when you abandon liberalism and you simply give these ethnic or religious tendencies their own way, you do end up in kinds of fascism and all kinds of other ugly things.
On the other hand, if you try to elevate liberalism into the sole governing principle, you end up in a place that’s not sustainable and that the art of politics, and I think it is an art and not a science, is to try to weave these together and to implant liberal values and liberal concerns with a real sense of community human capital, social capital and all these other things that actually make societies work and produce a sense of legitimacy in the decisions that institutions take.
Dr. Shlomo Avineri: If I may add a word, solidarity.
Walter Russell Mead: Yes.
Dr. Shlomo Avineri: Not national and ethnic solidarity, but social solidarity and social responsibility, which sort of disappeared with the sort of market, market fundamentalism of the last few decades. Sir Michael would not agree, but ––
Jonathan Tepperman: Well we, we –– very briefly.
Hon. Ömer Çelik: (Translator) Indeed, what you’re saying is quite right. We appointed embassies, I don’t want to ignite another crisis, our Ambassadors are on duty right now. What I’m saying is, what I mean, when I say partyocracy, I’m not trying to exclude political parties from democracy. Parties, when they are a party, a part of democracy, it will be astronomy. But if political parties are the bosses of politics, when they are disconnected from people, then this is partyocracy, meaning astrology. Right now, we’re faced with this crisis that resulted from the politics not being able to read the needs of the people. That was my point.
Jonathan Tepperman: I don’t know that we’ve made democracy great again, but I think we’ve made a great start. We certainly have our work cut out for us, but with more of these kind of conversations, we’ll be on our way.
So please join me in thanking our panelists, (applause) and now our illustrious President wants to come and, and add his voice.
Peter Van Praagh: Jonathan, thank you and thanks everybody for being here once again. And thank you for your patience. I want to apologize for the delay that we had as technical difficulties. So thank you very much.
And I do have to just make one announcement from Chief of Defence Staff, General Vance, that his reception, because of the time delay, has been cancelled and he will meet all of his military colleagues over at the Halifax International Security Forum reception at Pier 21 that will begin right after, right after you get your coats and head on over to Pier 21. We’ll see you this evening. Thank you so much.
Jonathan Tepperman: So everyone should head to, to the reception now?
Peter Van Praagh: Head to the reception, yes.
Jonathan Tepperman: Thank you.
Peter Van Praagh: Thank you.
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