“The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.” ― Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator
Why democracy should listen to populism
Governing well is possible —in fact, it is necessary— and not despite populism, but thanks to it. How? The first step consists in clearing the table from a classic misunderstanding: populism is not the opposite of democracy. That would be authoritarianism, or dictatorship, or fascism. Populism can actually be very helpful: it measures how much democracy is under pressure and offers a potential relief valve. When we witness Donald Trump, Recep Erdoğan, Jair Bolsonaro, or Rodrigo Duterte tearing apart democratic principles we are not observing the effects of populism, but the effects of authoritarianism on its way to become fascism.
Spain and Portugal share many things: the same peninsula, long parts of their history, and —until recently— the lack of success of far right parties. This, however, is no longer true. We try to understand the rise of the far right in Spain by asking Mariana Mendes questions about Vox and Chega, the memory of Franco and Salazar, opportunity structures and stigma.
Why populist radical right parties were not successful in Spain until very recently, and what has changed in the meantime? Will Portugal follow a similar trajectory or will it remain one of the rare “exceptional countries” in Europe where the far right is not successful?
Populist parties are the new “normal” in European democracies, and even when they do not dominate the political arena they might receive constant attention by the media. In short, a process of normalization and legitimation is making populist parties a permanent feature of European political systems.
But how many populist parties are there in Europe? Are they mostly right-wing as we tend to assume? How do they integrate in the political system of their respective countries? In order to be considered as populist they must be anti-elitist, but how can they remain opposed to the elites when they become integrated in the political system? I had many questions, and decided to ask them all to Mattia Zulianello.