The Atlantic

The Utter Emptiness of Trump’s Populism

In Europe, right-wing demagogues steer material benefits to working-class supporters, but the current U.S. president has delivered nothing of the sort.
Source: Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

President Donald Trump is a big fan of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, which, like him, demonizes immigrants and the press. Trump traveled to Warsaw to meet the party’s leaders less than six months after taking office, before he visited Britain, Germany, or France. In September 2018, one day after the European Commission sued Andrzej Duda’s government for undermining the Polish judiciary, Trump praised the Polish people for “standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty.” And when Duda visited the White House this June, Trump offered what The New York Times called “an elaborate show of support,” including “a rare and showy F-35 jet flyover.” What Duda’s government has done “over the last five years,” Trump effused, “has been something that the world has watched and the world has marveled at.”

Trump was exaggerating. Poland’s government has not become an international model to anyone but Trump and his fellow authoritarian “the largest triumph in the history of [Polish] parliamentary elections.” It won reelection by defeating its closest rival by a whopping 16 points.

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