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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The End of Liberalism

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Fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1989, Francis Fukuyama published his most famous article, "The End of History?" in which he claimed the worldwide victory of ideas of liberal democracy over other rival ideologies. The following decade, which saw the crash of the communist system in Eastern Europe, the demise of the "evil empire" and the collapse of communist ideology throughout the world (including China), proved to be the most liberal epoch in the contemporary history of the mankind and, arguably, in the history of civilization.

Last Tuesday, that epoch came to an end. The sweeping victory of American conservatism and nationalism in the U.S. presidential election, the preference for self-preservation above all else, received overwhelming support across the world's only remaining superpower. The popular vote for Republican candidate and incumbent President George W. Bush, the state referenda banning gay marriage, as well as congressional races, all reinforced the Republicans' unchallenged majority on issues of concern to the Democratic minority.

Thus the United States, the largest and once the most aggressive proponent of liberalism in the world, stated that the liberal idea should be put on hold, put aside, confined to the realm of dreams -- thereby giving carte blanche to the pragmatic use of omnipotent force to confront the ugly realities of today's world.

You have to give credit to Osama bin Laden. In just one day, this fanatic -- using 19 zombie suicide hijackers and four planes full of innocent people -- managed to roll back history by putting the notion of self-preservation back at the center of human values and unleashing a chain of events with unpredictable consequences: The war in Iraq, which has turned into a mess; the fundamentalization of Arab streets across the Middle East that are ready to explode; the confrontation between Europe and the United States; the rise of authoritarian and imperialistic impulses in nuke-rich Russia; the list could go on.

Political scientists, of course, will comfort us by saying that the political pendulum had swung far too far to the liberal side in the 1990s and thus was doomed to swing too far back the other way before settling somewhere in the middle: People do not like extremism of any sort and therefore strive for equilibrium.

But there are a few questions that need to be answered and that do not necessarily jibe with "equilibrium theory." One concerns how the generation of American baby-boomers and the antiwar movement managed to produce a generation of young cynics who did not vote in an election that many Americans believed to be crucially important for the nation. Polls suggest that only 17 percent of young Americans bothered to vote -- the same figure as in 2000. Why on Earth don't those who may face a prolonged war in Iraq and the possible reintroduction of the draft care?

Or, what kind of "moral values" did those who voted Republican have in mind? If the polls are to be believed, for the majority of those who voted for Bush, the moral values embraced by the Republicans were more important than such issues as terrorism and the state of the economy. Apparently, the war for oil in Iraq fits with those moral values, whereas the right of a neighbor to choose a lifelong partner and have that choice legally recognized by the state, regardless of the partner's sex, does not. Family values are important, whereas the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" unless in self-defense apparently is not.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the image of Monica Lewinsky carries a greater notion of evil than even that of bin Laden, judging by how the issues that influenced the voting behavior of mainstream America were rated.

But of course, the most frightening issue concerns the kind of impact that the end of liberalism outlined in the U.S. elections will have on politics in our part of the world. Throughout the final decades of communism and well into the 1990s, the Unites States served as a model of a better world to come, in which individual freedoms and choice took precedence over the supremacy of the state, aiding the prosperity and well-being of society as a whole.

Even the somewhat less comforting idea of the United States as the world's policeman served as some kind of insurance against the re-emergence of the apparently defeated forces of domestic nationalism and authoritarianism. The last four years, however, have shattered such beliefs.

The United States has turned a blind eye to the unleashing of precisely these forces in Russia. Last Tuesday put paid to whatever hopes remained. No wonder Kremlin hawks are celebrating the Republican victory in the United States as their own.

Yevgenia Albats, who hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy on Sundays, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.