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Defending Democracy in the Americas

Andrés Manuel López Obrador's inauguration as president of Mexico will soon be followed by Jair Bolsonaro's accession to the presidency of Brazil and US President Donald Trump's completion of two years in office. In each case, a populist leader's rise could have been prevented, which should serve as a lesson for democrats everywhere.

MEXICO CITY – The inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as president of Mexico will soon be followed by Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration, as well as US President Donald Trump’s completion of two full years in office. Though each is a unique event, they share some essential features. Most important, each represents a political outcome that could have been avoided.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, representative democracy seemed to be on a roll in much of the world. Democratic governments replaced dictatorships across Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, and they were supported by a united front of older democracies in the North Atlantic. But this all began to change in just the past few years.

From Hungary and Poland to Italy and even Germany, emerging political forces are challenging democratic governance. Though today’s resurgence of populist nationalism may peter out, for now it must be viewed as a serious threat. Much of this was foreseeable, and could have been prevented if those who should have known better had not remained passive.

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