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An Alternative Account of the Populist Backlash in the United States: A Perspective from Turkey

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2019

Berk Esen
Bilkent University
Şebnem Yardımcı-Geyikçi
Hacettepe University


Scholars tend to assume that consolidated democracies are free from the global retreat of democracy due to their strong institutions and economic development. Yet, populist forces that challenge the liberal democratic model have started to increase their support even in Western countries. However, in no country has democratic backsliding taken scholars by more surprise than in the United States. This article addresses the question of how a populist figure like Donald Trump managed to win the presidential election and subsequently undermined the democratic institutions in one of the world’s oldest democracies. We contend that the upsurge of populist leaders in contemporary Western democracies resulted from the political establishment’s failure to juggle responsiveness and responsibility simultaneously. In addition to our discussion of American politics, we draw parallels with the Turkish case to demonstrate our causal argument and offer suggestions on how to reverse democratic backsliding in the United States.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

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