Outside a convention center in West Palm Beach, Florida, March 2020
Maria Alejandra Cardona / REUTERS

In an interview with the Financial Times last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin glibly proclaimed Western liberalism to be “obsolete.” Self-serving as his remark may have been, Putin was tapping into a global sentiment. Illiberal populism is on the rise on virtually every continent, even in places that not long ago seemed headed the opposite way. The Hindu nationalist agenda of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fanned anti-Muslim sentiment in the world’s most populous democracy. In Brazil, murders of LGBTQ people have risen sharply under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. In Europe, far-right parties long confined to the fringes of the political spectrum have recently entered ruling coalitions in Austria, Estonia, and Italy. Anti-Semitism is growing in many societies, and anti-immigrant attacks have shaken democratic communities from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Halle, Germany. 

Three trends are fueling the rise of illiberalism in modern democracies. Social media networks are gradually

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  • MICHAEL CARPENTER is Managing Director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia from 2015 to 2017.
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