Are Populists Unusually Prone to Political Blunders?

In the DNA of Far-Right Demagogues Is a Blueprint for Their Demise

Boris Johnson leaves his Downing Street office in London, October 2019 Henry Nicholls / Reuters

After a swift and seemingly inevitable rise, some of Europe’s far-right populists have begun to falter, one after another. They are foundering not because voters have rejected their ideas but because of the embarrassing missteps that follow from a particular brand of politics, which can be characterized by nebulous insularity and delusional overconfidence.

In Austria, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was caught on tape promising state contracts in exchange for campaign donations to a woman whom he believed to be a Russian oligarch’s niece. Strache and his far-right Freedom Party crashed out of government in May as a result, and saw their share of the vote fall by more than a third in subsequent elections. In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nativist Lega party, tried to force an election in August that he thought he would win. But his erstwhile coalition partner, the populist Five Star Movement,

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