Populism isn’t Dead. Here are Five Things You Need to Know About It by Cas Mudde

(Originally published at The Guardian. Please visit the page before or after reading the piece here, to show your appreciation to the author and the publisher)

The electoral victories of Emmanuel Macron in France and Mark Rutte in the Netherlands have significantly changed the discourse on European politics. The international media has gone from “populism is unbeatable” to “populism is dead”. Obviously, neither is or was true. In fact, populist parties are still doing better in elections, on average, than ever before during the postwar era. Various European countries have populists in their government – including Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway, and Slovakia – while the most powerful country in the world is at the mercy of a billionaire president who has wholeheartedly embraced the populism of some of his main advisers, notably Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.

But at the very least, the rise of Macron has given us some breathing space to reflect in a less alarmist and more rational way on the phenomenon of populism, and draw some lessons for the future. Because, whether we like it or not, in many western democracies populism has become ingrained in national politics and there is no reason to assume this is going to change in the short- or medium-term future. Here are five theses on populism and the lessons that liberal democrats should draw from them.

Are Populists Democrat?

According to Takis Pappas, an expert on populism and one of my former professors, populism can be defined simply as illiberal democracy. The populist leaders believe, according to him, in democracy, and are found in democratic systems, yet they defend a form of democracy in which liberal values are not in place.

Can one be democrat if she is not liberal? The answer is a simple and plain no. In this short essay, I aim to briefly show why this is the case.

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