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You have misunderstood the threat to liberal democracy

Why painting today’s tyrants as 20th-century totalitarians lets them off the hook

On 9th November 2016, when liberal opinion was appalled by Donald Trump’s election victory, Barack Obama delivered a message of reassurance from the White House Rose Garden. He restated his faith that America had a progressive destiny, albeit sometimes circuitously reached: “The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag.”

Obama’s patience is partly vindicated by Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. A majority of US electors insisted on a course correction. But over 73m Americans voted to continue along the Trump trajectory—more than the number who backed him last time. They trusted the mendacious demagogue more than the institutions of American democracy. A hard core prefers conspiracy theories about electoral fraud to facts. The zigzag pattern played out not over decades but days, minute-by-minute as the results were disputed.…

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