A short Monday TAT today but at least, it’s about a little good news.
Historically, there are cycles to major events, like war, pandemics, revolutions, terrorist activities and yes, populism. Such populism can take many forms and is not relegated to any specific party or candidate but, the version that has sowed so much death, destruction and undermining of global democracies has been almost exclusively, far-right extremism in nature.
“The populist upsurge of the 21st century has been notable for its international linkages. On the one hand, it is clear that Russia has been an active supporter of populist movements, whether funding the French Front National, propagating Putinism, or attempting to influence US elections. Russian money, Russian propaganda, and Russian hacking efforts have not gone unnoticed. On the other hand, we see populists assembling in an “illiberal international.” The leaders of Poland and Hungary, for example, have publicly supported each other. Poland has also followed the Hungarian template for the deliberate erosion of democratic institutions since 2015. These are more than simply elective affinities: these linkages and networks are organized and funded, both formally and informally.”
-Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Since this quote was first published, other nations must be added, like India, France, Brazil and just recently, even Israel under Netanyahu’s government. The defining features of all of these governments are far-right and extremist in nature. In many cases, Putin is at the core of disseminating far-right populism and in supporting and financing it. That doesn’t let people and organizations off the hook in other nations like India. Cultural identity markers are deeply embedded in all humans. Shedding them completely is near impossible without a conscious effort.
Thugs like Putin trigger the populist identities globally via a variety of methods. The majority of these methods could and should be addressed via the RBIO/ rules-based, international order. Sadly, most don’t know how to or refuse to learn. Yes, the US is on the leading edge of refusal. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has depended almost exclusively on brawn, leaving the most effective tools of ethical influence to dissolve into oblivion.
Populism, by definition, pits the elite against the people, deserved or not. By virtue of its name, it cultivates a mob mentality that condones only one viable identity and is usually racist in nature. This is the case of the BJP party in India, led my Modi. This week they arrested his primary political challenger, Ghandi and sentenced him to two years in prison, solely to eliminate him from the ballot. His crime, for saying the following in a 2019 speech: “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” Well, corruption among Modi’s party is significant. BJP mobs roam India and threaten any challenger to Modi and the party. These mobs are often violent, and lethal.
Bolsonaro in Brazil attempted to use Trump tactics and had his mob attack Brazil’s most prominent seats of government in a day with countless US January 6th parallels. In so many cases of global far-right governments, the road leads back to Putin.
Viktor Orban’ in Hungary is a populist nightmare and has become the darling of the GOP’s CPAC events, even holding one in Hungary, while he was invited to speak at the next in Dallas, TX. Frankly, I expect nothing less from Gov. Greg Abbott and his far-right, anti-constitutional horde, with indicted felon, AG Ken Paxton serving as a “hit-man.” Like most of the GOP these days, Texas is hellbent on undermining the US constitution and our national values. The entire TX GOP, couldn’t spell, patriotic between them.
This trend has infected the globe, with especially disturbing trends for a decade or more. These trends have underpinned some dramatic shifts in global power structures and paradigms. The most assaulted entities were democracies, and institutions that stand for equitable global laws, policies, standards and norms. Globally, this is called the RBIO or rules-based, international order. Without rules and enforcement, the globe would turn into something akin to Russia under Putin, China under Xi, the US under Trump and on and on and on.
The great irony of populism is that it’s built on the disparity between elite and wealthy citizens and the rest of us. This disparity is mostly accurate. The threat though is that populist leaders don’t solve this problem, they make it worse via corruption and changing laws to protect them from oversight and consequences. Again, Trump here is a great example. The whole protest movement in Israel these past 11 weeks, is another perfect example. Populist leaders become authoritarians that steal the fruits of everyone’s labor while providing less and less services. At worst, populist leaders, left to their own accords, often become fascists. Hitler and Nazi Germany exemplified this dynamic.
I bet y’all are wondering, what exactly the “good news” is? Well, in order to give the good news a foundation, it was important to explain a bit about populism and its current form, far-right extremist populism.
The good news is that populism, by most standards is showing the early stages of decline, after peaking somewhere around 2020. The declines to date are intermittent but nonetheless, are still successes. Examples would be Trump ousted from office, Bolsonaro the same, Modi seeing more and more protests of his rabid, Hindutva nationalist movement, by the BJP and even success this morning by Israelis getting Netanyahu to back of some of his authoritarianism.
In support of some of these successes, we see international collective security agreements like NATO coming back to life after years of being abused by the Trump administration and Putin supported movements in Europe. ASEAN in Asia is reinvigorated by US sensible commitments instead of being purposely undermined by the last administration.
There are even signs in the US political landscape that human rights are no longer on the steep downhill slide that occurred under Trump. Don’t get me wrong, they are nowhere close to recovering their previous upward trends but at least much of the bleeding has stopped. Our economy, in utter disarray is showing signs of leading the world out of Pandemic induced catastrophes.
I believe that Spring is a traditional sign of hope and renewal. It’s appropriate that across the globe, our human values are reawakening. This is occurring alongside our efforts to remove the selfish authoritarians from the public square, while simultaneously replacing them with intelligent and ethical discourse. This is in fact good news. It may be too early to celebrate recovery, but recent events have heralded a time, to reinvest in the human values that most nations hold dear. When human values do well, other goodness follows and populists head for the unemployment line.
My very best for your week,
Good afternoon, Paul, I've been following your posts on the global populist long cycle with interest. Which got me wondering...is there an equivalent name for this political long cycle phenomenon equivalent to the economic long cycle theory known as the Kondratiev long wave?