A quarter century on, such optimism seems naive.
Consider the United States, the paragon of liberal democracy.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that only 14 percent of the people approve of Congress and only 19 percent approve of the GOP. Seventy-one percent believe America is headed in the wrong direction.
Nor is this the exceptional crisis of a particular presidency.
JFK was assassinated. LBJ was broken by race riots and anti-war demonstrations. Richard Nixon, facing impeachment, resigned. Gerald Ford was rejected by the electorate. Ronald Reagan was highly successful -- like Nixon, he won in a 49-state landslide after his first term -- but during the Iran-Contra scandal of 1987 there was a real threat of a second impeachment. And Bill Clinton was impeached.
Our democracy seems to be at war with itself.
Now there is talk of impeaching Obama. It will become a clamor should he grant executive amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants.
Political science has long described what seems to be happening.
From the tribal leader comes the monarch, whose reign gives way to an aristocracy that produces a middle class that creates a republic, the degenerative form of which is that pure democracy of which John Adams wrote:
"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide." Then comes the strong man again.
Is that our future? Is Western democracy approaching the end of its tether, with the seeming success of authoritarian capitalism in China and Russia? Recent history provides us with examples.
World War I, begun 100 years ago, brought down many of the reigning monarchs of Europe. The caliph of the Ottoman Empire was sent packing by Kemal Ataturk. Czar Nicholas II was murdered on the orders of the usurper Vladimir Lenin.
Fighting off a Bolshevik invasion, Marshal Pilsudski rose to power in Poland. Admiral Miklos Horthy ran the communists out of Budapest and took the helm. Mussolini led the 1922 March on Rome. Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 failed, but his party utilized democracy's institutions to seize power and murder democracy. Out of the Spanish Civil War came the dictatorship of Gen. Franco. And so it went.
Vladimir Putin may be the most reviled European leader among Western elites today, but he is more popular in his own country than any other Western ruler, with 80 percent approval, for standing up for Russia and Russians everywhere.
Polls in France say that, were elections held today, Marine Le Pen would replace Francois Hollande in the Elysee Palace.
Eurocrats bewail what is happening, but, inhibited by secularist ideology, fail to understand it. They believe in economism, rule by scholarly global elites, and recoil at the resurgence of nationalism and populism. They do no understand people of the heart because they do not understand human nature.
People don't enlist, endure, fight and die for cerebral constructs.
Who, then, will own the future -- of Europe, America, the world?
The day of the democratist and transnational elite appears to be passing. In Europe, the Scots, Catalans, Corsicans, Venetians and Flemish seek to secede from England, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium, respectively.
Not only the National Front in France, but also the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage and a dozen other nationalist parties on the continent want out of the European Union and an end to immigration.
And they are no longer intimidated by name-calling.
In America, a tectonic shift has taken place in public opinion with the arrival on our border of 60,000 children from Central America and the threat by Obama to issue executive amnesty to 5 million illegals.
Last week, Alabama Congressman "Mo" Brooks said there is a "war on whites" in America, being led by Obama, noting that under civil right laws the only group one may discriminate against is white males.
Nor has Brooks recanted under fire.
In a Washington Post column answering Brooks, "A Welcome End to American Whiteness," Dana Milbank concedes that, by 2043, white Americans will be less than half of the U.S. population. They were near 90 percent in 1960.
Far from being something to fear, Milbank writes, this "is to be celebrated. Indeed, it is the key to our survival." Immigrants pouring in from the Third World will bring a "fresh labor supply" and "fresh blood to cure us of what ails us." A tired America will be revitalized.
Perhaps. But sociologist Robert Putnam discovered that the more ethnically and linguistically diverse a society becomes, the more its social capital evaporates, and the less do its multicultural members gather together to cooperate in common causes.
And from those recent polls, Americans seem to look on the prospect of an even more racially and culturally diverse America of tomorrow, not with anticipation, but with a measure of dread.