Politics and Fear

The Hour of Populism

petry-getty pictures
AfD head Frauke Petry is continually gaining ground in political polls.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The return of political populism in the West may signal the end of the golden age of globalization and mark a new age of fear and uncertainty.

  • Facts


    • Projections forecast Germany’s right-wing AfD party will join three state parliaments in March elections.
    • In the United States, populist presidential candidates on the right and the left are showing strength in the country’s primaries.
    • Populists have seized power, or appear primed to, in Poland, Hungary, France, Italy, Finland, Switzerland and Spain.
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Ever more Western democracies are falling prey to the allure of populism.

Neither Germany nor the United States appears immune, with fire-breathing Frauke Petry, the head of Germany’s rising right-wing Alternative for Germany party, and populist U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump intent on pitting “us” against “them” – with our wellbeing hanging in the balance.

The dangerous trend has not been lost on Angela Merkel.

When the German chancellor took the podium at the Queen Elizabeth Centre for this week’s Syrian donor conference in London, it seemed like any other international appearance. But under the surface something clearly was awry. Wrapped in her pink blazer, Ms. Merkel visibly struggled to put on her happy face.

“This can be a day of hope,” the chancellor optimistically offered, pointing to the event’s humanitarian contribution. Her own largesse was on full display, as she pledged €2.3 billion, or $3 billion, in aid for Syrian war refugees – the largest pledge of the conference. Almost half of it will be spent this year alone.

Half the world bestowed Ms. Merkel with admiration for her wellspring of generosity and strong leadership.

Most of Germany belongs to the other half.

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