“In the United States, freedom of expression is in a sorry state”

Leon Wieseltier.

Writer and critic Leon Wieseltier has been a central figure in American intellectual life for the past thirty years. From 1983 to 2014, he edited the literary pages of The New Republic and helped make it one of the most influential magazines in his country. Very attached to political liberalism, Leon Wieseltier was mentored by the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), whom he met while studying at Oxford in the 1970s. In 2017, the press revealed that he had engaged in acts of sexual harassment against some of his colleagues. No legal proceedings were initiated against him. He apologized, without acknowledging all the accusations against him. He also retired for a time from intellectual life. He now returns with a new literary review, Liberties, which he co-directs with Celeste Marcus.

What do you think of the recent election of Joe Biden as President of the United States?

It is a formidable victory which allows the country to breathe. But it is not yet certain that Democrats can accomplish the task at hand, reform the country and restore what has been damaged by President Trump. Everything will depend on the by-election which will take place in January in Georgia to appoint the two senators of this state. If the Republicans win, they will keep their majority in the Senate and prevent President Biden from ruling.

Read also: the House of Representatives remains democratic, the control of the Senate will perhaps be decided in 2021

We must admit that the result of the presidential election is not reassuring. Donald Trump’s long-awaited repudiation did not happen. The gap is thin between the two candidates for the White House. Neither repeated scandals nor racism seem to have discouraged voting Republican, which is deeply disheartening.

In 2016, the election of Donald Trump was interpreted as the end of the liberal era, an era of prosperity and peace which began after the Second World War and whose principles were inspired by political liberalism. Can this current of thought be saved?

To regard liberalism with contempt is the silliest thing there is. This is the only way we can take to get out of the current crisis. It is true that liberalism has inspired, or served to justify, calamitous and erroneous political decisions. I am thinking here of the war in Vietnam. But that doesn’t mean that this conflict, or the 2003 invasion of Iraq, means America needs to withdraw from the international arena. The non-intervention in Syria is a shame.

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