burleigh4_Kiran RidleyGetty Images_france anti-vax Kiran RidleyGetty Images

A Dangerous New Variant of Populism

Although populist governments have been further discredited by poor performances in the face of COVID-19, a new strain of the same politics is already taking shape. Anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy theorists are finding common cause with voters who are worried about the implications of climate policies.

LONDON – Most of the “geopolitical” threats, real or confected, that capture headlines in the West nowadays are exogenous – emanating from China, Russia, Iran, and so forth. But others lie within the world’s democracies. Among these are the US Republican Party’s embrace of Trumpian authoritarianism, which is eroding the country’s democracy, and the possibility that new unanticipated variants of populism will take hold around the world.

One new variant of populism might involve hostility toward both costly green policies and vaccination against COVID-19. And it would be driven by a combination of genuine concerns about pocketbook issues and the kinds of conspiratorial lunacy that thrive on the internet.

Anti-green populism is particularly likely to flourish in the more fossil fuel-dependent economies of Central and Eastern Europe, in response to the European Union’s new strategy for reducing greenhouse gases by 55% by 2030. Indeed, the so-called Fit for 55 plan would seem to call for the wholesale remodeling of these economies.

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