Is Populism Being Trumped?

The reactionary parochialism embraced by many voters in recent years has shaken political establishments and roiled markets. They needed it, but can policymakers build on recent signs of buyers’ remorse?


Is the populist tide going out? The last fortnight has given democrats everywhere reason to cheer – or at least to sleep a little better.

For starters, Donald Trump’s bid for the US presidency is being buried by a cascade of damning revelations, including that he has not paid any federal income tax for perhaps two decades, and that he feels entitled by his fame to assault women – call it droit de célébrité. Many Republican leaders have finally had enough, repudiating their party’s presidential nominee in an effort to preserve its House and Senate majorities.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s anti-immigrant referendum failed to attract sufficient turnout. Orbán says that he will nonetheless seek to constitutionalize the result; but the fact that more than half of the electorate stayed home suggests that his Svengali-like hold on voters may be slipping.

And in Poland, enormous nationwide protests, led by women, forced Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS) party to withdraw a bill that would have criminalized virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. After a year of hollowing out Poland’s institutions and concentrating power in his own hands, Kaczyński, the unelected master of Polish politics, may have overreached, as he did in 2007, when he was Prime Minister.