President Obama may believe in universal democratic values, but President-elect Trump echoes those who see' democracy' as nothing but a means to their end.”>

PARISThe owner of a Left Bank caf heard me speaking English to a friend earlier the coming week and couldnt constrain himself. He asked what we believed to be President-elect Donald Trump. Americans overseas get that question a lot these days.

People were very surprised, I said, shaking my head. And what do you think of Marine Le Pen? I asked. Could she be the next president of France?

He nodded thoughtfully and a little ruefully at the mention of the female far-right dynamo who has taken her parents fringe party and turned it into a major force, with the power to shake up not only France but all of Europe.

For years Marine Le Pen has built the wave of nationalist populism on this side of the Atlantic that Trump has only just begun to surf in the United States: a force so disruptive that it risks turning the very notion of Western democracy on its head.

The polls, for what they are worth, have predicted consistently that Le Pen will win a plurality of the popular election next May, but lose the run-off for the presidency in June. Now, everybody is wondering: Can she win outright?

Its possible, said the caf proprietor, use an especially apt French word: After Trump, people will be dcomplex, which is to say freed of complexes and inhibitions. They will say, If the Americans can do this, why not us?

Indeed.

***

In Greece on Wednesday, lame-duck President Barack Obama gave a long lecturing on globalization and interruption, laying out the instance for liberal democracy as if he expected the world to be taking notes. And as happens so often when Obama adopts his professorial persona, he was philosophically right about almost everything, but emotionally convincing about almost nothing.

At the core of his argument was the idea, as he set it, that countries that uphold democratic governance tend to be more only, more stable, and more successful. He trotted out the old Churchillean chestnut that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. It can be slow. It can be frustrating. It can be hard. It can be messy, said Obama, but its ability to correct itself constructs it the best form of government to meet the challenges ahead.

And, historically, that might be true. But in the existing day what we are seeing is something altogether different. In many countries, the democratic process is being used to destroy what most of us thought were democratic ideals.

Back in 1997, Fareed Zakaria, then at Foreign Affairs magazine, warned of the rise of illiberal democracy, from Peru to the Palestinian Authority, from Sierra Leone to Slovakia, from Pakistan to the Philippines.

Democracy in those days had become appropriate tools of populist authoritarians around the globe whose attachment to freedom, equality, and brotherhood, as the French like to set it, is negligible. And today? illiberal is far too cautious a word.

Over the last decade, the list of emerging democracies trending toward tyranny is not only much longer than Zakarias, but several of the countries involved are much more important.

Turkey is a nation of more than 80 million people, an important member of NATO( with the second biggest army after the United States ), and with longstanding aspirations to join that club of democracies called the European Union.

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