DiscoverThe Ezra Klein ShowA Powerful Theory of Why the Far Right Is Thriving Across the Globe
A Powerful Theory of Why the Far Right Is Thriving Across the Globe

A Powerful Theory of Why the Far Right Is Thriving Across the Globe

Update: 2022-11-0122
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As we approach the 2022 midterms, the outlook for American democracy doesn’t appear promising. An increasingly Trumpist, anti-democratic Republican Party is poised to take over at least one chamber of Congress. And the Democratic Party, facing an inflationary economy and with an unpopular president in office, looks helpless to stop them.

But the United States isn’t alone in this regard. Over the course of 2022, Italy elected a far-right prime minister from a party with Fascist roots, a party founded by neo-Nazis and skinheads won the second-highest number of seats in Sweden’s Parliament, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party in Hungary won its fourth consecutive election by a landslide, Marine Le Pen won 41 percent of the vote in the final round of France’s presidential elections and — just this past weekend — Jair Bolsonaro came dangerously close to winning re-election in Brazil.

Why are these populist uprisings happening simultaneously, in countries with such diverse cultures, economies and political systems?

Pippa Norris is a political scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she has taught for three decades. In that time, she’s written dozens of books on topics ranging from comparative political institutions to right-wing parties and the decline of religion. And in 2019 she and Ronald Inglehart published “Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit and Authoritarian Populism,” which gives the best explanation of the far right’s rise that I’ve read.

We discuss what Norris calls the “silent revolution in cultural values” that has occurred across advanced democracies in recent decades, why the best predictor of support for populist parties is the generation people were born into, why the “transgressive aesthetic” of leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro is so central to their appeal, how demographic and cultural “tipping points” have produced conservative backlashes across the globe, the difference between “demand-side” and “supply-side” theories of populist uprising, the role that economic anxiety and insecurity play in fueling right-wing backlashes, why delivering economic benefits might not be enough for mainstream leaders to stave off populist challenges and more.

Mentioned:

Sacred and Secular by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart

Exploring drivers of vote choice and policy positions among the American electorate

Book Recommendations:

Popular Dictatorships by Aleksandar Matovski

Spin Dictators by Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

Thoughts? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com. (And if you're reaching out to recommend a guest, please write  “Guest Suggestion" in the subject line.)

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Original music by Isaac Jones. Mixing by Jeff Geld. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.

Comments (1)

Granny InSanDiego

In Episode 179 of the Ezra Klein Show, Ezra has a deep, intense, insightful and educational discussion with Pippa Norris, a political scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, about the cause of changing political trends and why democracies around the world are choosing to elect authoritarian leaders. What I see however are leaders who might talk a good game to win the support of dissatisfied groups in the electorate, but who instead advance the cause of the 400 billionaires in the world. Obama promised change and delivered none while at the same time alienating large segments of a fairly racist American society. Biden has tried to bolster America's diminished technological clout by rattling his saber at China and Russia and by his willingness to squander huge sums on the military and an unnecessary proxy war with Russia and a confrontational approach to China. And Trump, a liar, cheater, and fraudster par excellence, was able to capitalize on his TV persona and his uncanny ability to appeal to an aggrieved part of American society. As POTUS, while enriching himself, he almost succeed in a coup. His livelihood and liberty were on the line so he had nothing to lose by attempting to overturn the election. But the irrational devotion of his followers has not diminished. They still hold out the delusional hope that he can turn back the cultural clock in their favor.

Dec 9th
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A Powerful Theory of Why the Far Right Is Thriving Across the Globe

A Powerful Theory of Why the Far Right Is Thriving Across the Globe

New York Times Opinion