The Far-Right Threat in the United States: A European Perspective

Date01 January 2022
Published date01 January 2022
Subject MatterWhen Mass Politics Fails to Ensure Democracy
ANNALS, AAPSS, 699, January 2022 101
DOI: 10.1177/00027162211070060
The Far-Right
Threat in the
United States:
A European
The rise of Donald Trump has weakened the domi-
nance of the “American exceptionalism” paradigm in
analyses of U.S. politics, but the pivot to views of
the United States as part of a global trend toward
democratic backsliding ignores important, uniquely
“American” cultural, historical, and institutional attrib-
utes that make the country more at risk for democratic
erosion than most other established democracies. This
short article puts Trump, and his Republican Party, into
the broader comparative perspective of (European) far-
right studies. I argue that Trump in many ways fits
the “fourth wave” of postwar far-right politics, lay out
the unique challenge that the United States is facing
in terms of democratic erosion, and draw on the case
of Viktor Orbán in Hungary to learn lessons for the
United States. The article ends with some suggestions
of how democrats (not just Democrats) should address
the far-right Republican challenge to U.S. democracy.
Keywords: U.S. politics; democracy; far right; populism;
Donald Trump
It is rare for political scientists to write a New
York Times bestseller, but Steven Levitsky
and Daniel Ziblatt did just that, with their
insightful book How Democracies Die (2018).
It is the best contribution to what has quickly
become a new and popular genre of political
doomsday books, declaring the end of democ-
racy, liberalism, or both. What makes the suc-
cess of How Democracies Die even more
remarkable is that the authors look to other
countries to help explain what is happening
in the United States. Based on the authors’
extensive research on early-twentieth-century
Europe and late-twentieth-century Latin
America, Levitsky and Ziblatt provide an origi-
nal and thought-provoking understanding of
Cas Mudde is the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF
Professor of International Affairs and a distinguished
research professor at the University of Georgia (USA)
as well as a professor II at the Center for Research on
Extremism (C-REX) of the University of Oslo (Norway).

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