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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  • LUKAS KAELIN is Assistant Professor at the Department of Practical Philosophy/Ethics at the Catholic Private University in Linz, Austria.
  • BENJAMIN KAELIN is a research assistant at the Department of History at Zurich University.
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