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The Demigods of Populism

Leaders who claim to have divine missions are leaders who seek to increase their power and extend their rule, ideally indefinitely. Vladimir Putin has already achieved that goal, and Narendra Modi and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been headed in the same direction, but Donald Trump might represent the apotheosis of religious populism.

NEW YORK – When the Soviet Union collapsed and global communism retreated, many hoped that the days of authoritarian leaders cultivating “cults of personality” were over. We had reached the “end of history,” and liberal democracy won. Regular, peaceful transitions of power among democratically elected officials would be the norm, and no one would dare claim to be infallible, let alone divine.