How Populists Will Leverage the Coronavirus Pandemic

Graffiti of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wearing a protective mask in Rio de Janeiro, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Silvia Izquierdo).
Graffiti of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wearing a protective mask in Rio de Janeiro, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Silvia Izquierdo).
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Plenty of observers have rushed to predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will seriously harm the political fortunes of populists, or even make populism the outbreak’s first “ideological casualty.” Populists, they assert, vilify experts; now we are all learning that the price of not listening to experts may well be our own lives. Populists, it is also often said, are the great simplifiers; now we need experienced bureaucrats and leaders who can deal with a complex challenge. Yet this valiant attempt to see a silver lining in this political moment is itself highly simplistic. Populism is not primarily characterized by hostility […]

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