A cynic might say the word simply refers to demo cratic outcomes of which the

A cynic might say the word simply refers to demo

This preview shows page 18 - 19 out of 25 pages.

A cynic might say the word simply refers to demo- cratic outcomes of which the speaker doesn’t approve. More cynically, but more precisely, one might see it as an attempt to discredit the left by linking it with the far right, via a portmanteau political category that somehow includes both outright fascists and anyone to the left of today’s established social-democratic parties. A more charitable reading would be that populism describes the elevation of popular support over other cri- teria of legitimacy, such as law or business support or pro- fessional expertise. This is a reasonably clear definition that fits most common uses of the term. But does it fit developments in the real world? It seems to me that if populism means something like illiberal democracy, then the central feature of today’s po- litical moment is not populism but its opposite. In the United States, President Donald Trump is widely seen as populist. Certainly in his public persona he rejects established norms and expert opinion. But it’s important to remember that he lost the popular vote by a wide margin, and became president only thanks to the electoral college—one of a number of anti-democratic fea- tures of the U.S. Constitution that exist precisely to limit the power of popular majorities. To the extent Trump has advanced a policy agenda, it has been essentially the same as an establishment Republican would have. And it has been enacted into law only thanks to the non-majoritarian character of the Senate. His most lasting impact may well come through his Supreme Court appointments—which have been made in strict accordance with law and will be consequential precisely because of the Court’s power to overrule popular majorities. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro did win the popular vote— but only after the previous president was removed from office in what was effectively a soft coup, and the coun- try’s most popular politician was banned from running by the courts. This judicial preemption of democracy is the opposite of what is usually meant by populism. In Europe, the rise of anti-establishment parties, mainly on the right, would seem to give a stronger basis for fears of populism. It is certainly true that many coun- tries have seen a rise in new parties, thanks to the discred- iting of the established ones by a decade of economic cri- sis. But consider Italy. Yes, the governing League and Five Star Movement show up on many lists of populist political parties. But the real novelty in Italian politics today isn’t the election of politicians claiming a mandate from the people—who doesn’t?—but the fact that their proposed budget was overruled by the European Commission. The right to approve budgets has been the fundamental right of legislatures since the origin of the modern state, so its surrender is a political watershed. The projected deficits that justified the Commission’s intervention are not even exceptional by European standards; France, for instance, has had larger deficits every year for the past decade. So
Image of page 18
Image of page 19

You've reached the end of your free preview.

Want to read all 25 pages?

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern

Ask Expert Tutors You can ask You can ask ( soon) You can ask (will expire )
Answers in as fast as 15 minutes