Discover more from Democracy and Other Problems
Was 2022 the Year History Ended?
It was a great year for democracy—but also a good one for the Right.
Was 2022 the year history ended? Not quite. It’s premature to declare victory. Most victories aren’t permanent. But this was a year, and perhaps even the year, that democracy proved its resilience. Democracy in general and American democracy in particular should have never been in doubt, but they were. For months, large numbers of liberal, left-leaning Americans promoted something resembling “misinformation” with claims that democracy was about to die.
Not only did our democracy not die on November 8, 2022; the election was orderly and somewhat boring in the way that elections in consolidated democracies should be. As one NPR reporter drily put it: “In an election that had experts worried about vigilante poll monitors and the potential for danger for election workers, voting on Election Day seems to have gone off without any major incidents.”
To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Oddly enough, a good year for democracy was also a good year for the Right, two facts that might otherwise seem in tension with each other. In the U.S. midterms, Republican candidates won several million more votes than Democrats. But in American politics, the party that wins the “popular vote” doesn’t necessarily win power. In 2016, this was a bad thing, with Trump losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College. In 2022, this was a good thing (if you happened to be, as I am, a Democrat).
In Western Europe, where it seemed like the far-right had peaked, there is now a far-right prime minister in Italy for the first time in the postwar era. After Sweden’s most recent parliamentary elections, a far-right party is the largest party in the governing coalition for the first time.
The world hasn’t ended, at least not yet. Democracy is chaotic and inelegant, but it does what it’s supposed to do quite reliably: it allows different parties to periodically alternate power through the aggregation of individual votes. Sometimes this produces good outcomes. Other times, it produces bad ones. But each time, the results are the product of long, uneven process of consultation and participation.
In non-democracies, even the supposedly successful ones, there is only the will to power. In the place of consent, there is instead imposition. If this was the year democracy showed its resilience, it was also the year the authoritarian “model” of countries like China and Russia showed their fatal flaws. Those weaknesses were always there. It just happened to take a war and a pandemic to make them obvious.
If you’ve enjoyed my writing, please do consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. I’m excited about rolling out new features in the new year, including subscriber-only chats and open threads. Also, an end-of-year special: for the rest of today, you can get a 30% discount on annual subscriptions at the link below! Thanks for your support.