The best Governments—and if ever there was a time in our country’s history when we needed the best possible Government, this is surely it—are those that are tested by Parliament, by the Opposition parties and by their own Back Benchers. Time and again, our system fails when the Government and the Opposition agree and arguments remain untested. How different might the debates on the case for going to war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 have been if the then Opposition had been prepared to take a more questioning approach to Tony Blair’s case? I am sad to say that this Government, however, do not welcome scrutiny by Parliament, but rather seek to avoid it.
In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view -- one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
At the root of our problems is our inability to create shared prosperity and the unwillingness of the political system to discuss and tackle this problem. To equal our modern-day challenge, our institutions therefore need to show that they can make the gains from new technologies and trade more widely shared; build a much stronger and more rational social safety net; reform our tax and entitlement system; reduce the increasingly onerous red tape confronting small businesses; improve our badly failing educational system (if necessary over the objections of teachers unions); start investing in our long-neglected infrastructure; and at last, recognize some of the most debilitating problems facing our society’s most disadvantaged, including violence in our inner cities and mass incarceration in our prisons. All this needs to be done without further deepening the polarization that laid the tracks for Donald Trump’s rise. It’s a tall order, though not an impossible one. And it will require that American elites recognize that the battle to save American democracy won’t be over on Tuesday, regardless of the outcome of the vote.