Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University
Christopher Garman, Managing Director, Eurasia Group
Francisco González, Riordan Roett Senior Associate Professor of Latin American Studies
Ben Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed
Moderated by Clifford Young, Professorial Lecturer, Latin American Studies Program and President of Ipsos North America

March 30, 2017

The global resurgence of populism was explored by political science experts in a panel discussion at the Washington, DC campus. Ben Smith spoke of the challenges populism poses for the media. Public trust in the media is at historic lows, and Smith argued that journalists can only gain back this trust by getting closer to their audience. Journalists should no longer be gatekeepers, but guides helping people navigate the vast amount of information they receive, she said.

Sheri Berman defined populism as centered around an idea of the “people” who have been disadvantaged by the system, and a view of politics as a zero-sum game. She noted populism is also a symptom of democratic systems. Francisco González characterized populism as a political strategy and a movement that opposes liberalism, checks and balances, and consensus-making. He spoke of parallels with conflicts between the populares and the oligarchs in ancient Rome.

Berman reminded the audience that populist movements are not a new phenomenon in Europe, but they are now for the first time able to influence the system. Christopher Garman stressed that we may see further turmoil outside of Europe and the US, especially in Latin America. Garman also noted that because populist movements have a long history in Europe, we should be cautious about the next electoral outcomes on the continent. Even if populist movements do not win the next round of elections, this should not be equated to a long-term solution to the grievances that led to this resurgence of populism, he said.