The Sunday Edition

A loss of consensus: Why the last decade saw growing polarization

For the last ten years, the very foundations of the current political order seem to have been tested and found wanting. We watched the old consensus of liberal democracy crumble while populist movements gained a foothold. we saw some of the largest progressive protests and social movements in years and, at the same time, saw some of the most right-wing governments in recent memory elected. Our discussion of the 2010s will begin with two observers of the turbulent and contradictory political currents that shaped the decade: Jennifer Welsh, a professor and the Canada Research Chair in Global Governance and Security at McGill University. And Jeet Heer, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation magazine.
The last decade saw some of the largest progressive protests and social movements in years and, at the same time, some of the most right-wing governments in recent memory. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images)
Listen35:44

The 2010s has been a decade of wild pendulum swings — between optimism and despair, right and left, breakthroughs and backlash. 

On the left, political figures rose to prominence promising to overturn the status quo, and we have seen some of the largest progressive protest movements in decades. 

And yet, the decade also ushered in some of the most right-wing governments in living memory. Populist leaders like Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orban and Jair Bolsonaro promised a return to better, simpler times to push through nationalist and xenophobic policies.

The word that captures the last decade is polarization, and you can see it in a domestic context in different liberal democracies ... [and] on a global level.- Jennifer Welsh

For much of the last decade, the very foundations of the current political order seem to have been tested and found wanting.

But although the old consensus of liberal democracy has been crumbling, a new and unifying model seems to be out of reach.

The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright spoke with two observers about the turbulent and contradictory political currents that shaped the decade.

L to R: Jeet Heer is National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation magazine. Jennifer Welsh is a professor and the Canada Research Chair in Global Governance and Security at McGill University. (Fabiola Carletti/CBC | Courtesy of House of Anansi Press)

Jennifer Welsh is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Governance and Security at McGill University. She is the author of several books, including The Return of History: Conflict, Migration and Geopolitics in the 21st century.

Jeet Heer is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation magazine. He was previously a senior editor at The New Republic.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.

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