One of the most influential documents of the 20th century—the Communist Manifesto—begins with the famous phrase:
A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of Communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter; Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French radicals and German police spies. Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? (Marx and Engels, 1848)
At the beginning of the 21st century a document could be written with a similar introductory paragraph, replacing the word “communism” with “populism,” and changing the names of the political, economic, and religious establishments that feel threatened by the growth of movements that question their power, calling such movements populist. This new document would begin with the following narrative:
A specter is haunting advanced capitalism on both sides of the North Atlantic—the specter of Populism. A holy pack, the political and media establishments of these countries and their ruling political parties, as well as their supranational institutions, have conspired against this spectrum. Where is the political party that has threatened the political and media establishments and not been defined as populist?
As happened in the 20th century with communism, the term “populism” in the 21st century is used by the political and media establishments to define any…