Future of Democracy

How to Fight Populism in Europe?

Publication of Joint Policy Brief by Three European Think Tanks

Terra Nova (France), Volta (Italy), and Das Progressive Zentrum (Germany) present strategic answers to the crucial question of how progressives and democrats across Europe should counter populism.

With Emmanuel Macron’s triumphal successes in the French elections, the populist threat may seem further distant and less acute now. However, progressive and democratic actors should not fall prey to this perception! Populist parties and movements across Europe and the Western world continue to endanger our liberal democracies and their democratic values. Hence, the question of how best to counter this phenomenon should still be on top of the political agenda.

The Policy Brief, written by Marc-Olivier Padis, Giuliano da Empoli, and Dominic Schwickert, draws key insights from the cases of France, Italy, and Germany and argues that progressives will be able to gain back ground from populists if they consider a number of important strategic points.

First and foremost, progressives need to develop a new attitude. Rather than merely defending the status quo, what is needed is more democratic enthusiasm and an accompanying positive, sweeping narrative of political change for the better. Our societies cannot be renewed from a position of defence. Rather, we need a renewed belief in the possibility of change. The most pressing task is to create pictures of a positive, attractive future and enrich these through policy proposals.

More concretely, the Policy Brief argues that progressives need to

  • underline that globalisation – in conjunction with fair distribution and the right amount of regulation – can serve as an opportunity to create wealth, instead of being a threat;
  • advocate approaches going beyond merely increasing the social welfare state, but which also encompass innovative ideas about qualitative growth, social equality and sustainable economies;
  • evoke a political rhetoric promoting the ideas of a common destiny and belonging, albeit not based on ethnic, but rather on “thin” cultural and political grounds;
  • use careful and well-adjusted emotionalisation and personalisation of politics as a key in the pursuit of winning over hearts and minds;
  • increase transparency and accountability in the legislative process and promote the parity of genders to have a positive effect on the renewal of political representatives.

The Policy Brief can be found here. There is also a French, Italian, and German (tba) version.

Dominic Schwickert

published on

28 June 2017