Where the Real People Meet the Real Elite

Exploring Mixes of Populism with Elitism

In: Populism
Carola Schoor Maastricht University

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This article clarifies how elitist elements are integrated into populist discourse by analyzing political speeches using this incongruent style. First, it introduces a method to identify populist, elitist, and pluralist discourse based on a shared logic, defining populism at an intercontextual level. Second, speeches by Donald Trump (US), Boris Johnson (UK), and Thierry Baudet (NL) are analyzed in their contexts to clarify their political styles and are then compared to see where these styles meet. The populism-elitism mix goes well with nationalism, as all three politicians combine the style with a nationalist ideology, which unites the people with the elite. Coalitions are created between the people and the “good” elite to fight the “bad” elite. Furthermore, the mix has rhetorical-strategic advantages, such as profiling oneself as unique on the political field. Overall, the blend shows political significance, justifying thoughtful academic consideration alongside the broad attention for full populism.

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