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Populism vs. Constitutionalism? Comparative Perspectives on Contemporary Western Europe, Latin America, and the United States

Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser
Publication date: 
Thu, 12 Dec 2013

In this policy brief, Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser takes a comparative approach to challenge the conventional wisdom that populism, by virtue of its ambivalent relationship with constitutionalism, represents a threat to democracy.
Rather than condemning outright populist actors, Rovira Kaltwasser advocates a more nuanced approach, arguing that, instead of portraying populists as anti-democrats, we should emphasize the importance of pluralism, as well as institutional checks and balances, in order to defend a conception of liberal democracy.
He illustrates his argument with examples across three continents, charting the rise of anti-immigration radical Right parties in Western Europe in the aftermath of 9/11, the anti-democratic constitution-making of Latin American leftist leaders such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, and the influence of the Tea Party in the US following President Obama's succession of George W. Bush.