It took liberals just two decades to turn from hubris to hand-wringing. When the Berlin Wall fell, their confidence was unbounded. The ‘End of History’ was declared. Liberalism had won. Today, with the rise of populism, liberals are walking around like clueless tourists, wondering how we ended up here and what to do about it.
Liberals forgot three fundamental facts about liberalism: a liberal society is a permanent work in progress; the work is hard; the lure of illiberalism is always strong. The forgetfulness of liberals led them to complacency and presumptuousness. Victims of their own short-term success, they failed to maintain the energy and passion necessary to fuel sustainable liberalism. The intellectual triumph of liberalism led to its political neutralisation.