Not so long ago, democracy was on the rise. The crumbling of the Berlin Wall brought pluralism to much of the former Communist bloc. Nations from the Philippines to South Africa to Brazil also saw remarkable democratic advances. More recently, the Arab Spring uprisings demonstrated the strong desire for liberty throughout the Middle East.
But in 2016 the world is in a sorry state, hence our Fall 2016 issue’s Special Report: Democracy Deficits. The timing is especially appropriate given the difficulties we witnessed in this year’s presidential election in the United States—a country with 240 years of democratic experience. In “The Meaning of Trump,” Donald T. Critchlow charts how an anti-establishment billionaire reshaped the Republican Party and American politics by mobilizing an angry electorate. Does it make a difference if a woman is the president of the United States? Zillah Eisenstein answers that important question in “Hillary Clinton’s Imperial Feminism.” For an early read on how history will judge the 44th American head of state, read James T. Kloppenberg’s “Barack Obama’s Presidency.”
Our survey of democracy extends beyond America’s shores. In “Unraveling in the Kremlin,” Lilia Shevtsova examines Vladimir Putin’s strategy of using foreign interventions to consolidate legitimacy for the Russian political system. Madiha Afzal offers “Pakistan’s Democratic Opportunity,” a study of the country’s evolving military-civilian political dynamic. In “Toward an Egyptian Open Society,” Nabil Fahmy assesses the country’s progress in the two years since the election of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Hoda Baraka and Payal Parekh, in “After the Paris Agreement,” examine how the climate movement is holding governments and energy corporations accountable for the fate of the earth.
For some further insight, I traveled to the University of California, Berkeley during the American election season to speak with philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler. In a wide-ranging talk in her Doe Library office, she made pointed comments about Trump and Clinton and what the contest says about American society today. “It is a frightening moment, there is no doubt,” she says in The Cairo Review Interview. “I think what is at stake is whether or not we are a constitutional democracy.”