Trump’s inauguration ushers in 2017, the year of the strongman
By Oliver Stuenkel
Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20 exemplifies a phenomenon that is likely to shape global politics for years to come: the rise of the strongman.
The term is broadly used to describe law-and-order candidates with authoritarian tendencies who weaken institutions and concentrate power in the executive. As leaders, they tend to reject pluralism (the idea that political power is distributed among many institutions, both governmental and nongovernmental). Instead, they often claim to be the exclusive representatives of “the people”.
Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro are classic strongmen. Calling their opponents “unpatriotic” and implying they are guided by “foreign interests”, these politicians consistently articulate a moral form of anti-pluralism.
Strongmen thrive on polarisation: once in office, all three of these world leaders have described their opposition as illegitimate, immoral and “enemies of the people”; Maduro even called those who voted against him traitors.
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