The Myth of Global Populism
By David Art, Tufts University, Massachusetts
The “rise of global populism” has become a primary metanarrative for the previous decade in advanced industrial democracies, but I argue that it is a deeply misleading one. Nativism—not populism—is the defining feature of both radical right parties in Western Europe and of radical right politicians like Donald Trump in the United States. The tide of “left-wing populism” in Europe receded quickly, as did its promise of returning power to the people through online voting and policy deliberation. The erosion of democracy in states like Hungary has not been the result of populism, but rather of the deliberate practice of competitive authoritarianism. Calling these disparate phenomena “populist” obscures their core features and mistakenly attaches normatively redeeming qualities to nativists and authoritarians.