How Left and Right Populism Interact in Politics

Kathleen McKinnon

At the beginning of the course we mentioned left-winged populism and it is interesting to see that topic come back after several weeks of studying what drives right winged populism. As the March article points out, there are similarities between left and right-winged populism in that the main goal is criticizing the elites – although right-wing populism brings in the dimension of marginalized groups, and perhaps this is where they draw more scrutiny than left-winged populism (285). However, March states that there is less left-wing populism than right-winged populism, in the case that he looks at (200).

Another interesting point that is brought up in the March article is that there is room for both sides to work together, which is very surprising considering they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum (285). However, this does explain why in my own mind I always had a difficult time discerning the difference between where some populist movements lay on the political spectrum. March mentions that left-wing populism does not necessarily mean communist so this makes the distinction a little more difficult between how the two sides operate, without that obvious ideology. However, as Akkerman states, ideological left-wing parties can be communist and these left-winged parties often employ populist tactics in that it gives them a better position in the arena of mainstream parties (195). March points out that there is little evidence of populism among mainstream parties meaning that it needs to be a mechanism used to promote more fringe ideology and perhaps covers for the deficiencies in the party’s ideology and organization (200).

M. Rooduijn Akkerman T. “Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in Western Europe” Party Politics 23 (3) (2017): 193-204.

March L. “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 282-303.

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