Did Trump’s Loss Pop The Populist Bubble?
November 13, 2020
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“Being naked approaches being revolutionary; going barefoot is mere populism.” — John Updike
“Those who the wise consider fools are often better tuned to speak before a crowd.” — Euripides
Did Trump’s Loss Pop The Populist Bubble?
(Boris Roessler via Getty Images)
As Donald Trump’s four year tenure in the White House comes to a bewildering end, one might posit that his exit from the world stage signals the end of days for right-wing populists like Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, England’s Boris Johnson, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban — all of whom ascended to power using the same brand of alternative politics that helped Trump secure the highest office in the land.
However, just like Trump himself, don’t expect the international “populist wave” to go away just yet. While Trump’s loss in the United States eliminates the movement’s most recognizable figurehead, the political and socio-economic grievances that allowed xenophobia and populism to take root across the globe are still very much alive. And as COVID-19 and online misinformation continue to sow doubt in traditional institutions, many experts argue those roots will indeed grow stronger in the post-Trump era.
“It’s arguably the most consequential election in our lifetime, but I would be very cautious about a mood swing toward believing populism is finished,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies at Oxford University. “In general, all such extreme mood swings are mistaken, and specifically, more than 70 million Americans voted for Trump.”
Even if you choose to disregard the 70 million+ votes Trump received last week, others argue the enduring appeal of populism predates Trump’s short-lived reign over American politics. Movements had sprouted across Europe long before anyone ever donned a MAGA hat — and won’t necessarily rise and fall with their American counterparts.
“Trump was more or less irrelevant for populist and right-wing movements in Germany and Europe,” said Norbert Röttgen, a Christian Democratic politician seeking to take Chancellor Angela Merkel’s place as leader of the party. “For that reason, his defeat will not affect them in a fundamental way.”
While some believe Trump’s loss will not affect these European movements, others cite the strength of his misinformation apparatus as a reason why far-right populism on the global stage is here to stay. Qanon and its perverse ideology have taken hold overseas, especially resonating in Germany as Trump’s claims of fraud are taken at face value by the growing online movement.
“The wonderful thing about conspiracy theories is that they are non-falsifiable and impossible to refute with facts,” said Anna Grzymala-Busse, Stanford University’s political populism specialist.
This playbook of bold-faced misinformation is one that has been followed by Trump’s admirers, such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who has mimicked the White House’s response to the pandemic by downplaying its severity and accused political opponents of election fraud.
But just as Trump himself has provided a playbook to his far-right international allies, Stanford’s expert hopes his demise will provide a similar outline to their challengers. “It shows them it really is possible to get rid of the populists,” Professor Grzymala-Busse said.
- End of Trump era deals heavy blow to rightwing populist leaders worldwide (Guardian)
- Without Donald Trump, what happens to populist, right-wing leaders? (USA Today)
- Why populism in Europe will survive Trump’s defeat (European Council on Foreign Relations)
Democracy In Hong Kong Is Long Gone
(Anthony Kwan via Getty Images)
- Since the British handed it over to China in 1997, Hong Kong has struggled against Beijing to remain China’s freest city. This special freedom was held up by two rights granted exclusively to Hong Kongers: street protests and elections to the city’s legislature. However, 2020 has seen the Chinese government crackdown on both of these societal staples, beginning with a national security law that forbade any citizen from “acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security.”
- While this power granted the Chinese state unprecedented powers to quell dissent in the once-sovereign city, this week saw Hong Kong’s second privilege effectively erased. Chinese leaders have now granted local authorities, led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the power to expel any lawmaker she determines to be unpatriotic without any trial in court.
- This new directive from Beijing came into quick effect on Wednesday, as four pro-democracy legislators were kicked out of office for their reticence in acknowledging China’s sovereignty over the city. This bold move was met with an effective surrender from the pan-democrat opposition camp, who announced that all of their members would be resigning in protest following the ousting.
- This move will essentially neuter any anti-China movement within Hong Kong’s legislature, something that Democratic party lawmaker Claudia Mo would “put the nail into Hong Kong’s democracy fight.” “From now on, anyone deemed to be politically incorrect will not be allowed to run in the election,” Mo added. “They are making sure only patriots can join Hong Kong’s political election.” (CNN)
- What Led to the Hong Kong Resignations? (NYT, $)
- Britain, EU Join U.S. In Condemning China’s Crackdown On Hong Kong Lawmakers (NPR)
Putin’s Power Grows Through Peace
- This week, Armenia and Azerbaijan settled their dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and agreed to a Russian-brokered peace deal that seems to have brought the long-simmering conflict to another lull. And while the ceasefire benefits all actors involved, experts have declared Russia the true diplomatic victor of this high-stakes faceoff, as they were able to corral the warring nations while the European Union stood idly by.
- While the peace deal itself serves as a return to the precedent set by 2009’s Madrid Principles, the means of the settlement will be established via military force rather than diplomats. Russia aims to deploy some 2,000 peacekeepers to the region to help each side protect their territory in the region, granting Moscow new security leverage in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both nations will now increasingly rely on Russian support for expansion in the region, as this conflict served as a de facto power vacuum that Putin was more than happy to occupy.
- Experts were quick to criticize the lack of involvement from both the EU and the US in this influential skirmish. “What is very important for the Kremlin is the diminished role of the West, which was mainly self-inflicted by the lack of focus” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. (Politico)
- Azerbaijan’s drones owned the battlefield in Nagorno-Karabakh — and showed future of warfare (WaPo, $)
Additional World News
- Give us your huddled masses: Biden Plans To Reopen America To Refugees After Trump Slashed Admissions (NPR)
- Europe Can’t Blame Donald Trump Anymore (Atlantic, $)
- Vatican Report Places Blame for McCarrick’s Ascent on John Paul II & The Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis Is Far From Over (NYT, $)
- Assad situation: In ruins, Syria marks 50 years of Assad family rule
- The burning scar: Inside the destruction of Asia’s last rainforests (BBC)
- ‘Buddha would be green’: Dalai Lama calls for urgent climate action (Guardian)
- Locked up in a lockdown Down Under: A Police Swarm. Frantic Calls. Then 3,000 People Locked Inside. (NYT, $)
- Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: UN warns aid could run out (BBC)
- The Women Trying to Transform Burkina Faso, Whatever the Result of the Presidential Election (Vice)
- Mexico police open fire on femicide protest in Cancún (Guardian)
- Dr. Fauci says ‘help is on the way’ with vaccines, but doubts Covid can ever be eradicated (CNBC)
- Highly Praised Pfizer Vaccine Is Coming. But Will It Come To Poorer Countries? (NPR)
- Covid Winter is Coming. Could Humidifiers Help? (Wired)
- The Children Never Had the Coronavirus. So Why Did They Have Antibodies? (NYT)
- The Strange and Twisted Tale of Hydroxychloroquine (Wired)
Turnt Up Voter Turnout
- Believe it or not, the official ballot count is still going up as the final votes are being tabulated. But one thing is for sure: the 2020 general election will go down in history for its record-breaking voter turnout. Not only did Joe Biden and Donald Trump receive the first and second most votes of any presidential candidate ever — but it appears that 2020 is on pace to challenge a century-old voter turnout record as nearly 65% of the voting-eligible population has been tallied thus far.
- The Washington Post projects that 66.5% of the eligible population will have voted in 2020 when it’s all said and done. That shatters all previous turnout records dating back to 1900, where 73.7 % of a much smaller, whiter eligible voting population of males elected William Taft to office. To put things into perspective, the Trump referendum has already shattered turnout totals from Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election and John. F. Kennedy’s win over Richard Nixon.
- Enthusiasm to vote was especially high in battleground states, where Texas surpassed its record by over five percentage points and Minnesota saw a staggering 80% turnout rate. All in all, only eight states are projected to walk away from the 2020 election without breaking their voting records. (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- No official word: The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud (NYT, $)
- No Self-Respecting Lawyer Should Touch Trump’s Election-Fraud Claims & Barr’s Decision on Voter Fraud Inflames Existing Tensions With Anticorruption Prosecutors (Atlantic, NYT, $)
- Trump Election Lawsuits Filed So Far (NPR)
- Alarm grows over Trump administration acting ‘more akin to a dictatorship’ as he denies election defeat (CNN)
- The US was lucky to get Trump – Biden may pave the way for a more competent autocrat (Guardian). Imagine if he was good at this.
- Pentagone: ‘Devastating’: Top Pentagon leadership gutted as fears rise over national security (Politico)
- John Bolton: Time is running out for Trump — and Republicans who coddle him (WaPo, $)
- The Right Way to Investigate Trump Once He Leaves Office & Analysis: 6 lawsuits Trump is going to have to deal with when he leaves office (Politico, CNN)
- Biden-voting counties equal 70% of America’s economy. What does this mean for the nation’s political-economic divide? (Brookings)
- Tlaib lashes out at centrist Dems over election debacle: ‘I can’t be silent’ (Politico)
- The Long Shadow of the Reagan Years (NYT, $). How we got from Ronald to Donald.
- For Pence, the Future Is Tied to Trump as Much as the Present Is (NYT, $)
- The GOP Women Who Ditched Their Party to Vote Democrat (Atlantic, $)
- What’s at state: Statehouses are a bigger problem for Democrats than the Senate or the Electoral College. (Slate)
- TikTok says the Trump administration has forgotten about trying to ban it, would like to know what’s up (The Verge)
No (Hot) Spring Chicken
- If you use your imagination, there are probably a lot of ways to get banned from Yellowstone National Park. But we bet you didn’t think of this one. This story involves two cousins, their neighbor, two chickens, and one giant hot spring that they determined to be nature’s perfect boiling pot.
- On August 7th, park rangers responded to a report of three men walking towards Yellowstone’s hydrothermal basin — which can reach temperatures over 400 degrees Fahrenheit — with cooking pots and another piece of suspicious cargo: “A ranger responded and found two whole chickens in a burlap sack in a hot spring,” said park spokeswoman Linda Veress.
- As it turns out, the main culprit was a scoutmaster from Idaho who had made a name for himself by cooking high-class meals in the wilderness. Calling his technique “how to not rough it while roughing it, ” Eric Romriell claims to have made milkshakes out of raspberry or huckleberry fruit found on a hike, as well as boiling hot dogs in hot springs for an efficient meal. A full chicken was only the next logical iteration of his culinary camping skills.
- Alas, Romriell and company were issued a citation when rangers found him trespassing on a thermal area, using the natural heat to his taste buds’ delight. “The way I interpreted it was don’t be destructive, and I didn’t feel like I was,” Romriell said, “One of the big rules for scouting and camping is leave no trace. I don’t intend to be a naughty person. I don’t intend to be a troublemaker.”
- Despite his best intentions, Romriell and two others were handed down a three-year ban from the national park. But perhaps it was all worth it — Romriell described the thermally-cooked poultry as “fantastic.” (NYT)
- How to Tell When Someone Is Lying to You (Lifehacker)
- Which of these 6 time traps is eating up all your time? (TED)
- Remote Learning Isn’t the Only Problem With School (Atlantic, $). Schools can learn from their own mistakes.
- Zoom lied to users about end-to-end encryption for years, FTC says (Ars Technica)
- What is Rumble? Meet the video platform Trump supporters are flocking (Fast Company) Are you ready to Rumble?
- RIP Google Music, one of the company’s last examples of generosity (TechCrunch)
- Techno is music, German court declares (France24)
- A downhill steam: How Quibi imploded less than six months after launch (The Verge)
- An Engineer Gets 9 Years for Stealing $10M From Microsoft (Wired)
- The flying car is here – and it could change the world (BBC).
- Hillbilly Elegy movie review: Netflix’s adaptation of JD Vance’s controversial book is bafflingly awful (Vox)
- The Indian epic Mahabharata imparts a dark, nuanced moral vision (Aeon)
- Turkmenistan leader unveils giant gold dog statue (BBC)
- They did Diana dirty: BBC Orders Inquiry Into Diana Interview After Claim Princess Was Misled (NYT, $)
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