Trump’s defeat initiates the end of populism

There was open jubilation among liberals and centrists in Europe when Joe Biden was projected to be the winner of the White House race. “The defeat of (Donald) Trump may be the beginning of the end for the triumph of far-right populisms in Europe as well,” tweeted Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council and now head of the European People’s Party, the largest transnational political party in Europe. Europe made up of Christian Democrats and moderate conservatives.

But Tusk’s optimism was quickly called into question. “Does Trump’s defeat in the US elections mark the beginning of the decline of populism?” Asked The New York Times. “While Trump’s defeat is a severe blow to his populist allies, its consequences for populism as a global political movement are more ambiguous,” the newspaper warned. The Republican, after all, garnered more votes (73.6 million) than any U.S. presidential candidate in history, aside from the historic 79.6 million votes won by Biden, underscoring the enduring appeal of Biden’s message. Trump.

And, as CNBC highlights, from Brexit to the election of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, politicians and populist parties around the world share common characteristics with Trump’s policy: they tend to lean to the right and promote policies nationalists, anti-establishment and anti-immigration, as well as sharing a skepticism (and often a total rejection) of globalization. Of course, there are also other left-wing populist governments, such as that of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico.

Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the White House on March 19, 2019. Photo: AP

But despite all the talk about a populist wave that swept across the world after the Brexit vote in the UK in June 2016 and the election of Trump five months later, experts note that the populist and political movements The far right in Germany and other European countries always had their own roots, which were distinct from and prior to the Anglo-American variety.

For this reason, Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European studies at the University of Oxford, expresses his doubts about the eventual tombstone that Trump’s defeat would mean for populism. “It is arguably the most momentous choice of our life, but I would be very cautious about a mood swing towards the belief that populism is over,” the British intellectual told the Times.

The Bolsonaro, Modi, Orbán and Le Pen of the world will continue to be powerful, with or without Trump.

Benjamin Moffitt, Professor at the Australian Catholic University

And other experts consulted by Third agree on this assessment. “The defeat of a leader, no matter how powerful, is not a sign that a political phenomenon that is now ingrained throughout the world is going to decline. While this could be a good narrative, it simply does not stand up to empirical reality: the Bolsonaro, Modi, Orbán and Le Pen of the world were and will continue to be powerful, with or without Trump, ”said Benjamin Moffitt, professor at the Australian Catholic University and author of The Global Rise of Populism (2016).

In this sense, Anna Grzymala-Busse, professor of International Studies at Stanford University, emphasizes that “populism is largely indigenous.” “Many of the more established authoritarian populist regimes came to power long before Trump: Venezuela, Poland, Hungary or Turkey are examples. They do not depend on Trump for their symbolic or material support, “he adds.

Trump’s populism deeply marked US society and he is not going away anytime soon.

Nadia Urbinati, Professor at Columbia University

But domestically, the Republican’s populism seems to have made its mark. “Trump attracted many votes and the United States is torn between its populism and the democratic program. His populism deeply marked American society and he is not going away anytime soon, “said Nadia Urbinati, professor of Political Theory at Columbia University and author of Me the People: How Populism Transforms Democracy (2019).

The same thinks Daron Acemoglu, author of the book “Why countries fail” (2012), who in a column published in Foreign Affairs magazine predicted that “Trump will not be the last American populist.” “The autocratic and populist turn of the Trump presidency grew out of deep fractures in US politics and society, and Americans must understand and address them if they are to prevent similar forces from taking over the nation once again.” writes the economist.

And Acemoglu delves into the reasons for the populist phenomenon of Trump in that country. Right-wing populism did not emerge in America because of Trump’s deranged charisma. Nor did it start with the infatuation of the media with its outrageous statements, or with Russian meddling, or with social media. Rather, right-wing populism reemerged as a powerful political force at least two decades before Trump seized power from the Republican Party, remember Pat Buchanan? And it has analogues around the world, not just in mature democracies reeling from job losses in the manufacturing sector, but also in countries that have benefited economically from globalization, including Brazil, Hungary, India, the Philippines, Poland. and Turkey ”.

Donald Trump greets Viktor Orbán in the Oval Office of the White House, May 13, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Precisely, after the Republican’s departure from the White House in January, many wonder who will now take the role of populist reference. “Arguably the same populist leaders who have had the most success before Trump – Orbán in Hungary and Modi in India are the dominant political figures in their respective countries and I suspect they will continue to enjoy great success,” Moffitt says. Grzymala-Busse, on the other hand, does not believe that populists need an “international symbol.” “Most of their requests, in fact, try to reclaim national sovereignty and address internal concerns first and foremost. Populism and authoritarianism will continue without Trump or any other leader ”, he says.

For her part, for Erin Kristin Jenne, a professor in the Department of International Relations at the University of Central Europe in Vienna and a specialist in populism, “the next prominent populist leader could really come from anywhere. It often happens that leaders who were previously moderate or liberal take a step in the populist direction when they hope to gain political support by doing so. ” “Political instability breeds populism,” he argues.

Still, Paul Taylor, a Politico Europe columnist, argues that Trump’s defeat, while less resounding than many Europeans expected, “deprives Europe’s illiberal demagogues of a cheerleader and ally in Washington ”. “This is particularly bad news for the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, and the de facto ruler of Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, who will no longer be able to play the ‘Trump card’ to strengthen their domestic political position and resist pressure from the European institutions for their attack on judicial independence, media pluralism and civil rights ”, he writes.

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