The Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

Anne Applebaum. Doubleday, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-54580-8
Responsible conservatism has drifted into bigotry, antidemocratic ideology, and revenge psychology, argues this deeply personal analysis of the populist right. Historian and journalist Applebaum (Red Famine) calls out erstwhile center-right friends and colleagues who once supported democracy, meritocracy, free markets, and internationalism for accommodating xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and illiberal one-party rule. Focusing on her adopted homeland of Poland, Applebaum decries former allies who now support the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party’s undermining of the independent judiciary and media. She also faults Tory acquaintances in Britain for backing Brexit, and Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham for abandoning Reaganite conservatism for “apocalyptic pessimism.” Applebaum paints contemporary right-wing politics as a psychosis of “resentment, envy, and... the belief that the ‘system’ is unfair—not just to the country, but to you,” and of psychic anxiety about “clashing voices and different opinions.” Her armchair psychologizing—as when she suggests that the “loud advocacy” of Ingraham and other Trump boosters may help “to cover up the deep doubt and even shame they feel about their support for Trump”—sometimes feels too glib and dismissive of the divisive issues that energize populist movements. Still, this anguished and forceful jeremiad crystallizes right-of-center dismay at the betrayal of the conservative tradition. (July)
Reviewed on : 05/27/2020
Release date: 07/21/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 208 pages - 978-0-7710-0585-5
Paperback - 335 pages - 978-0-593-21478-7
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