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Krisis Demokrasi Liberal dan Pemahaman Kita

Ilustrasi. [Gambar: THINKSTOCK]

Sebelum jauh menentukan masa depan Liberalisme dan Demokrasi, kita harus ke belakang, melihat ke masa lalu, bercermin sekali lagi kepada sejarah untuk memperjelas definisi keduanya.

Sudah 25 tahun berlalu sejak Fareed Zakaria memperingatkan tentang ancaman yang baru dan berkembang: munculnya “anti demokrasi liberal” di seluruh dunia. Pemerintahan yang dipilih secara demokratis rutin melanggar prinsip-prinsip liberal. Secara terbuka melanggar aturan hukum serta merampas hak-hak dasar dan kebebasan warganya.

Hari ini, banyak yang percaya bahwa kita berdiri di tebing krisis eksistensial. Demokrasi liberal, seperti yang ditulis Ed Luce dari Financial Times, “kehancurannya lebih dekat dari yang mungkin ingin kita percayai.” Dalam sebuah buku baru yang menyegarkan, mantan sekretaris negara Amerika, Madeleine Albright, bahkan memperingatkan kebangkitan kembali fasisme.

Ada konsensus yang berkembang bahwa demokrasi Amerika sendiri sedang dalam bahaya. Indeks Economist mengkategorikan Amerika Serikat sebagai negara dengan “demokrasi yang cacat.” Ada bahaya di dalamnya: orang Amerika menjadi puas tentang demokrasi, kehilangan minat pada cita-cita tradisional mereka. Liberalisme telah gagal, tulis Patrick Deneen. Masalahnya, kata David Brooks dari New York Times, kaum liberal telah lupa bagaimana mempertahankan “nilai demokrasi liberal” mereka. Mereka harus kembali ke prinsip pertama; mereka harus ingat tentang “norma demokrasi liberal.”

Masalahnya adalah, kita tidak benar-benar tahu arti demokrasi liberal. Serentetan buku, artikel, dan potongan opini berbicara tentang kehancurannya, tetapi para penulis saling berbicara satu sama lain atau cenderung berputar-putar, karena mereka menggunakan definisi yang berbeda dari istilah tersebut. Ed Luce mendefinisikan liberalisme dengan satu cara, David Brooks dengan cara yang lain, dan Patrick Deneen pun lain lagi. Bagaimana kita bisa berdiskusi dengan benar tentang demokrasi liberal ketika kita tidak berbicara tentang hal yang sama?

Persoalan ini tentu lebih dari sekadar semantik. Istilah yang membingungkan akan menyebabkan pemikiran yang membingungkan pula. Hal itu merusak pemahaman kaum liberal terhadap prinsip-prinsip mereka sendiri dan melemahkan kekuatan politik mereka. Lawan mereka dengan mudah mengeksploitasi ambiguitas verbal. Oleh karena itu, inilah saatnya kita memperjelas istilah dan arti dari “demokrasi liberal.” Dan, langkah pertama, bisa dimulai dengan melihat sejarahnya.

Satu kesalahan umum adalah kecenderungan mengaitkan liberalisme dengan demokrasi. Kedua konsep itu tidak bersinonim. Di sebagian besar sejarahnya, pemahaman itu bahkan belum kompatibel. Sejak zaman Yunani kuno, “demokrasi” berarti “pemerintahan oleh rakyat.” Beberapa orang menafsirkan hal tersebut berarti partisipasi politik langsung oleh semua warga laki-laki. Pihak lain menganggapnya sebagai sistem perwakilan berdasarkan hak pilih semua warga laki-laki.

Selain itu, bagaimanapun juga, hingga abad ke-19, mayoritas kaum liberal bermusuhan dengan gagasan demokrasi. Demokrasi mereka kaitkan dengan kekacauan dan aturan masyarakat. Sulit untuk menemukan liberal yang antusias terhadap demokrasi selama masa kejayaan “liberalisme klasik.” Memang, tidak salah jika dikatakan bahwa liberalisme pada mulanya diciptakan untuk memuat demokrasi.

Tentu saja, para pendiri liberalisme tidaklah demokrat. Benjamin Constant mempertahankan kualifikasi properti yang ketat, baik untuk pemungutan suara maupun perkantoran. Contoh paling baik adalah Revolusi Perancis. Publik sama sekali tidak siap untuk hak-hak politik. Orang-orang tidak tahu apa-apa, irasional, dan cenderung melakukan kekerasan. Di bawah tekanan rakyat, supremasi hukum ditangguhkan; “musuh rakyat” dipenggal, dan hak-hak mereka diinjak-injak. Fase paling demokratis dari revolusi juga merupakan yang paling berdarah.

Despotisme Napoleon yang disahkan berulang kali oleh pemungutan suara berdasarkan hak pilih laki-laki, hanya menegaskan pemahaman kaum liberal tentang demokrasi. Popularitas kaisar menunjukkan dengan tegas bahwa warga Perancis memiliki kecenderungan yang tidak sehat untuk rezim otoriter dan sangat rentan terhadap propaganda. Kata-kata baru diciptakan untuk memberi nama rezim pseudo-demokratis milik Napoleon. Ada yang menyebutnya “despotisme demokratis”. Lainnya, menggunakan istilah “Bonapartisme” atau “Caesarisme”.

Constant menyebut hal tersebut sebagai “perampasan.” Perampas terus dipaksa untuk membenarkan posisi mereka. Mereka menggunakan kebohongan dan propaganda untuk membuat dukungan, membentuk aliansi dengan otoritas keagamaan untuk menopang rezim yang mereka langgengkan. Mereka membawa negara mereka ke dalam perang yang tidak berguna untuk mengalihkan perhatian orang-orang dari pembangkangan. Sembari meningkatkan kekuatan, mereka menambah pundi-pundi dan memperkaya para kroni. Paling buruk dari semuanya, mereka menghancurkan orang-orang sendiri dengan manipulasi dan tipuan untuk berpartisipasi dalam kebohongan yang mereka ciptakan.

Alexis de Tocqueville juga memiliki keraguan yang mendalam tentang demokrasi. Dua revolusi Prancis tambahan, satu pada tahun 1830 dan yang lainnya pada tahun 1848, diikuti oleh Napoleon yang lain, membuatnya sangat tertekan. Sekali lagi terbukti bahwa massa mudah dimangsa para demagog dan calon diktator yang melayani naluri terendah mereka. Demokrasi memupuk bentuk individualisme yang buruk, kata lain untuk keegoisan dalam kosakata Tocqueville.

Kaum liberal awal seperti Constant dan Tocqueville menghabiskan banyak waktu untuk memikirkan bagaimana menghadapi bahaya demokrasi. Batasan harus ditempatkan pada kedaulatan rakyat, supremasi hukum, dan terjaminnya hak-hak individu. Tapi, hukum yang baik tidak akan pernah cukup, karena orang kuat yang populer bisa dengan mudah memutarbalikkan atau mengabaikannya begitu saja. Kelangsungan hidup demokrasi liberal membutuhkan warga negara yang berpendidikan politik. Constant bepergian ke seluruh Perancis untuk memberitahu warga Perancis tentang prinsip-prinsip konstitusi, hak-hak, dan tugas-tugas mereka. Dia menerbitkan artikel dan menyampaikan pidato untuk tujuan yang sama. Dia juga berjuang dengan gagah berani demi kebebasan pers.

Dua tokoh kita itu juga percaya bahwa kelangsungan hidup demokrasi liberal bergantung pada nilai-nilai moral tertentu. Hal itu membutuhkan semangat publik dan rasa berkomunitas. Tocqueville berpikir mendalam tentang “moralitas publik” dan “kebajikan publik”. Constant prihatin atas kepuasan politik, sikap apatis, dan keegoisan yang dia lihat di sekelilingnya. Hanya para diktator yang akan mendapatkan untung dari persoalan seperti itu.

Lalu, pertanyaan yang hadir kemudian, bagaimana cara mengatasi degradasi moral?

Komitmen elit yang berjiwa publik sangat penting. “Kelas-kelas tercerahkan” dan “pihak-pihak dengan niat baik” harus menjadi “misionaris kebenaran,” tulis Constant. Mereka harus melipatgandakan upaya mereka untuk melawan sinisme yang membuat orang menjauh dari kebaikan publik. Seperti dikatakan Tocqueville, penting untuk “mendidik demokrasi.” Dan ini, katanya, adalah “tugas utama yang dibebankan pada para pemimpin masyarakat saat ini.”

Betapa menyedihkan, pendapat-pendapat seperti itu kini semakin sering bergema sekaligus semakin terdengar naif.

Namun, hal paling penting adalah kita harus belajar dari para pendiri liberalisme, mereka yang hidup melalui krisis eksistensial masing-masing, mereka yang mengetahui tentang kecenderungan demokrasi yang akan tumbuh menjadi anti liberal. Dan di bagian itulah, poin utama kita semua mesti belajar.

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Artikel ini ditulis oleh Helena Rosenblatt, profesor sejarah di Pusat Pascasarjana Universitas Kota New York. Dia adalah penulis buku yang akan segera terbit, Sejarah yang Hilang dari Liberalisme: Dari Roma Kuno hingga Abad ke-21. Arikel ini pertama kali di publikasi di The Guardian: liberal democracy is ini crisis. But … do we know what it is?

Weny Mukaddas

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