Berlin, Germany

Is Populism Undermining Western Democracy?

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2015 file picture a protestor holds a poster with an image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf in front of the Reichstag building with a crescent on top during a rally of the group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, in Dresden, Germany.  Words on poster read : "Mrs. Merkel, here is the people." A leading member of the nationalist party Alternative for Germany is facing fierce criticism after calling for a racially charged term once favored by the Nazis to be rehabilitated. Party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry said in an interview published Sunday Sept. 11, 2016  that words such as "voelkisch" should be given "a positive connotation." Frequently used by the Nazis, the term refers to people who belong to a particular race.   (AP Photo/Jens Meyer,file)
A Zócalo/NPR Berlin Event
Moderated by Alison Smale, Berlin Bureau Chief, The New York Times
SAP Berlin
Rosenthaler str. 30
Berlin 10178

A populist campaign has taken Great Britain out of the EU. Right-wing populists have risen to power in Poland and Hungary and joined the governments of Finland and Switzerland, while their left-wing counterparts rule Greece and perhaps soon Spain. Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee. Populist politicians and their arguments—that selfish elites won’t defend ordinary people from inequality or banks or globalization or immigrants or terrorists—haven’t been this popular since the Second World War. What explains the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic, and what are the most effective ways for voters and leaders alike to respond to it? Is today’s populism renewing democracy by challenging received wisdom and powerful people—or weakening it, by undermining institutions and making scapegoats of outsiders and the powerless? Harvard University political theorist Yascha Mounk, CEO & Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs Volker Perthes, and German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Fellow Timo Lochocki visit Zócalo to discuss the extent to which populism is endangering Western democracy, or renewing it.

*Photo by Jens Meyer/Associated Press.

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