How To Beat The Populists

IAF Seminar Paper
Feature22.08.2019
IAF Seminar Paper: How to beat the populists
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

What makes populists attractive? Are they a projection screen for pent-up anger and frustration? Do people really believe the often obvious lies and false promises? Do they really share the hostile opinion towards minorities? And why don’t they see that the harshest critics of the so-called elite are themselves part of privileged groups of society?

These same questions keep popping up after many elections and in many countries around the world. Within liberal political organisations these are followed by questions like: What exactly is populism and how can liberals win against it in political competition? And since populists seem to reach the hearts and minds of many voters so well: should we learn from them? Is there something like a liberal populism or populist liberalism as some occasionally suggest?

Liberals from around the world met at IAF in Gummersbach in June 2019 to examine these issues, to dissect populism into its individual components and to work themselves through the different forms and varieties of populism around the world to finally get to its core. With a better understanding of what we are dealing with, the group of course wanted to explore ways on how to tackle populists and beat them in political competition without detaching oneself from liberal values.

After 10 days of research, discussion and deliberation the participants of this intense seminar compiled their thoughts and findings into the following text that I think is worth sharing. Sven Gerst and Radu Magdin not only co-authored this paper together with the participants, they also kept the flow intense and high during the seminar with their exceptional facilitation!

So, if some of the above mentioned questions had come to your mind at some point after an election you will enjoy reading this brief IAF Seminar Paper and inspire your own thoughts.

Bettina Solinger
International Academy for Leadership (IAF)