President Trump has promised to cure cancer, eradicate AIDS, and ensure that American astronauts land on Mars if he wins a second term. “We will push onward with new medical frontiers. We will come up with the cures to many, many problems, to many, many diseases—including cancer and others and we’re getting closer all the time,” Trump said to a cheering crowd at his rally in Orlando, Florida.
“A prerequisite for a stable international environment is for America to be engaged in world affairs and multilateral institutions. To combat terrorism, prevent nuclear proliferation, manage international crises, and protect our children from an environmental tragedy in the making, we need America’s strong commitment, as well as new forms of multilateralism adapted to the times we live in. America can’t make it alone, and the world can’t make it without America.”
“Across the continent, political party systems are splintering. Some of this reflects the resurgence of existing parties. Support for the Greens, for example, has risen in recent years. But much of the fragmentation has been the result of the emergence of new political parties. Since 2000, 94 new parties have won seats in national legislatures in Europe. … Research suggests that the widespread creation of new parties across Europe, especially those that are personalist in nature, has troubling implications for democracy’s future in Europe.”
“President Trump’s tariffs and trade wars play a critical role in his reelection schema. Having largely thrown in with conventional GOP plutocracy—most notably with the massive 2017 corporate tax cuts—Trump’s moves on trade are the political life support that keeps alive the faint-pulsed aura of economic populism he concocted in 2016, largely betrayed in office, and hopes to duplicate in 2020.”
“For populism to get a foothold, politicians themselves must see it as a viable strategy. Generally speaking, declaring that the ‘other people don’t mean anything’ isn’t the best way to garner broad support. So, even when structural factors favor it, populism can succeed only in certain circumstances. In Trump’s case, the intense partisan polarization in the U.S. means that he can appeal to marginal or swing voters, because he knows that Republicans will vote for him no matter what.”
“Populism, strictly speaking, means appealing to the man in the street whose needs or grievances have been ignored by elites. But if you look at how more entrenched populist parties actually go about appealing to the masses in Hungary, Poland, and Italy, they start by enlisting the elites to tell the man in the street what his needs and grievances are, then catering to those. Inevitably, they proceed by coopting or bankrupting journalists, if not threatening violence against any who withstand those tactics and continue to put up a fight.”
During a recent campaign in the European nation of Estonia, the EKRE Party’s leaders railed against migrants, same-sex partnerships, mainstream media, and a so-called deep state, all while trafficking in falsehoods and inflammatory rhetoric. The rise of far-right populism took Estonian liberals and moderates by surprise, but they’re finding peaceful ways to fight back.
Matteo Salvini scored a huge victory for his far-right League Party in Italy. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally Party won the highest share of the vote at 23%. The far-right Flemish separatist Vlaams Belang Party scored major gains in Belgium. While overall 75% of voters in the European Parliament election backed parties that support Europe, populists are making troubling headway.
“Studying the effects of hard-right parties on qualitative measures of transparency, individual liberties, rule of law, and minority rights in 30 European countries from 1990 to 2012, Robert Huber and Christian Schimpf showed that the presence of anti-system populists in opposition can be good for democracy, because they act like ‘drunken guests’ at a dinner party and blurt out awkward truths. But they also found that there is ‘a substantial negative effect on democratic quality’ when they enter government.”
Bucking a populist trend sweeping through Europe, Dutch Pro-European parties are predicted to triumph in the European Parliament election against populists, an exit poll on Thursday unexpectedly revealed. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans tweeted, “To all our friends across Europe still campaigning, this one is for you too! Keep going! Keep believing! We can do this!”
“Many citizens of former socialist countries are supportive of strong leaders. In a democratic process, you need to listen to various ideas and programs, weigh the arguments, and make decisions. Democracy is complicated, but if there is a leader you believe, you do not need to do anything. In eastern Europe, Vladimir Putin is actually becoming more and more popular, as the numbers of followers of Viktor Orbán or Jaroslaw Kaczynski are growing. This phenomenon of illiberal democracy was completely unpredictable, and what is particularly worrying is the fact that it is a fruit of democracy itself…”
“Across the world, democracy is delivering anti-liberal results. Liberals should be honest about what this means—among other things that they are failing to persuade sufficient numbers of voters to entrust them with power, and that this failure has begun to discredit the very norms and institutions that make our democracies liberal in the broader and deeper sense. The result is likely to be a spike in corruption and a decline in freedom for everyone who isn’t owed a favor by the ruling party. … Liberalism and democracy have gone together for a long time. But there’s no guarantee the pairing will last—or that they can easily be brought back into alignment once the ties between them have been severed.”
European Parliament elections begin on Thursday, and a poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations suggests far-right parties will more than double their seats, controlling as much as 18% of Parliament. United by a desire to stop migration, “defend” European culture and identity, and return powers from the EU to national governments, far-right lawmakers hope to transform the 28-country bloc from within.
Austria’s political scandal has revealed the country’s former vice-chancellor’s corruption, but it also highlights the close ties between the Kremlin and far-right populist parties around the world. As part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s quest to become “a leader of a new global conservatism,” Russian sources help fund political campaigns and spread disinformation in support of far-right candidates. Sounds very familiar…
Domestic terrorist Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man who admitted to sending pipe bombs to various media outlets and Democratic officials and donors last year and who pleaded guilty last month to 65 felony counts, told a judge in a handwritten letter on Tuesday that “the first thing you [hear] entering [a] Trump rally is, we are not going to take it anymore, the forgotten ones, etc. … It was fun, it became like a new-found drug.” Populism will do that to you.
“The right-wing populist wave that looked like a fleeting cultural phenomenon a few years ago has turned into the defining political movement of the times, disrupting the world order of the last half-century. The Murdoch empire did not cause this wave. But more than any single media company, it enabled it, promoted it, and profited from it. Across the English-speaking world, the family’s outlets have helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism, and politicize the very notion of truth.”
Right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, will be meeting Donald Trump at the White House on March 19 to discuss “how to build a more prosperous, secure, and democratic Western Hemisphere.” Bolsonaro has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship, advocated for torture, threatened to jail political opponents, and criticized women and the LGBTQ community. So he and Trump have a lot in common.
Harvard Law School’s Cass Sunstein argues that the current divisive political climate of an angry, zero-sum game between Republicans and Democrats makes the Founders’ dreams of self-government impossible. To help our nation heal and remain united, political leaders need grace and they need to treat their political opponents as fellow Americans and not their enemy.
As President Trump prepares to sign a spending bill without his proposed $5 billion funding for a border wall, he turns to his Fox News allies to calm his base. The White House reached out to both Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs to talk about the President’s negotiation efforts. This move is seen as an attempt by some to mitigate against the uproar Trump may face if he decides to sign the spending bill without his promised wall.
“The West is now rudderless. To be rudderless puts you at the mercy of elements. The elemental forces of politics today are tribalism, populism, authoritarianism and the sewage pipes of social media. Each contradicts the West’s foundational commitments to universalism, representation, unalienable rights, and an epistemology built on fact and reason, not clicks and feelings. We are drifting, in the absence of mind and will, toward a moment of civilizational self-negation.”
“For far-right, and even mainstream-right, movements across Europe, Orbán’s speeches have amounted to something of a manifesto. L’Incorrect, a French magazine founded by a group of young intellectuals associated with Marion Maréchal, Marine Le Pen’s popular niece, devoted its recent issue to ‘the Sun Rising in the East,’ and included a lengthy investigation of Orbán’s Hungary, lauding him for ‘reinventing Christian democracy.'”
The outspoken Pope Francis, no stranger to controversial statements, warned his flock against the twin dangers of nationalism and populism. The pope believes that the resurgence of political tribalism is dangerous, not only for institutions, but especially for the vulnerable and persecuted.
Say what you will, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can always provoke a response. From the progressive left, she’s received adulation and a hero’s welcome to Washington. From the right, she’s sparked a corresponding tidal wave of criticism — some of it warranted, some not. But when called out on getting her facts wrong, her defense that she is “morally right” even if empirically wrong is the exact kind of bad faith argument used by Donald Trump and his supporters to hand-wave away inconvenient truth.