RELEASE: CAP and AEI Team up to Defend Democracy and the Transatlantic Partnership

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute released the results of a unique collaboration focused on defending liberal democracy and the transatlantic partnership in an era of rising authoritarian populism.

“Our scholars often disagree over many important policy questions,” said Vikram Singh, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “But at a time when the character of our societies is at stake, our commitment to democracy and core democratic principles is stronger than our differences.”

The project has been convening leading American and European policy practitioners, academics, and commentators from across the political spectrum for in-depth conversations about the causes and consequences of the current authoritarian populist challenges to free, open, and democratic societies, as well as the appropriate policy and political responses.

The groups are jointly publishing two reports on populism in the United States and Europe. These reports argue that the threat of authoritarian populism will not recede unless a new generation of leaders makes the case for liberal democracy, openness and pluralism, and international cooperation.

The first two joint publications stem from workshops convened in Washington, Florence, and Prague under the leadership of CAP’s senior director for Democracy and Government Reform, Liz Kennedy, and AEI research fellow Dalibor Rohac. A third publication on the impact of extreme populism on the transatlantic alliance will follow.

“Our goal is not to forge a centrist orthodoxy but to ensure civil debate continues in open and democratic societies and that extreme politics don’t weaken political, security, and cultural ties across the Atlantic,” said Danielle Pletka, AEI’s senior vice president for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies.

Read the reports:

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6327.

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CAP-AEI Project on Defending Democracy and Underwriting the Transatlantic Partnership: Statement of aims

On both sides of the Atlantic, free, open, and democratic societies are facing a challenge. An intellectual vacuum is forming in the political center, where traditional political platforms and leaders are experiencing a decline in their popular appeal. Meanwhile, authoritarian populists of various stripes, many with covert or open ties to the Kremlin, are stepping in to fill the emerging void.

Scholars at the Center for American Progress and at the American Enterprise Institute have often found themselves on opposing sides of important policy discussions. Yet, at a time when the fundamental character of Western societies is at stake, what unites us is much stronger than the disagreements that we have.

The threat of authoritarian populism will not recede unless a new generation of political leaders offers a credible agenda for improving people’s lives that is more appealing to the public than the populist alternatives. The defense and rebuilding of democratic politics and discourse, however, requires sustained intellectual engagement. It demands a reinvigorated case for how liberal democracy, openness, pluralism, and a rules-based international order can deliver on the promise of shared prosperity and common security. Through this project, we aim to provide such a case, built around five ideas:

  • As a system of government, liberal democracy has no appealing alternatives. People deserve to live under governments that are responsive and accountable to them and that are subject to binding constitutional and legal constraints.
  • As a general rule, openness—both to trade and migrationmakes societies more prosperous and resilient. Policymakers need to make sure that the benefits of openness are shared fairly, but going back to a world of autarchic, closed societies is not an option.
  • International cooperation is valuable. While international organizations and alliances may require updating, an international system based on rules and cooperation between liberal democracies is vastly preferable to the zero-sum world of warfare and protectionism that was the norm throughout human history.
  • Authoritarian regimes are not benign. In fact, they are actively undermining liberal democracies. Liberal democracies should not seek confrontation, but—especially after the experience provided by years of Russia’s disinformation efforts in Europe and in the United States—they need to appreciate that, within the international realm, authoritarian regimes pursue different objectives than societies with governments that are accountable to the people and respect the rule of law.
  • Ideas matter. The critical debates about the future of our societies are never settled once and for all. They take place in every generation. Fearless, fair, and honest debate is a crucial mechanism to advance human dignity and freedom and to achieve human potential. It is time that our generation mounts a solid intellectual defense of the cornerstones of democratic social order.