In “Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook”—a podcast series by The GroundTruth Project—journalists recount the rise of populist nationalism in seven countries around the world. They examine how nationalist leaders seem to be adopting common strategies as they seek to gain and maintain power: exploiting divisions, targeting outsiders, undermining institutions, and attacking the media.
The final episodes bring the analysis back to the United States and chronicle Donald Trump’s distortion of truth and use of distraction and “false parity to promote extreme ideas” and his own agenda.
The hallmarks of populist nationalism are gaining ground in many of the world’s largest democracies from Modi’s India to Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Trump’s America. In these, and many other countries, elected leaders are flirting with aspects of authoritarianism in an extreme era of digital disruption, mass migration and the mounting effects of climate change.
In this project, Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook.
It is a playbook that our reporting team has pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. The reporting is not intended to suggest that each of these countries is now under an authoritarian regime, but that their leaders are showing instincts and inclinations that lead to a brand of populist nationalism that, if history is a guide, can lead to authoritarian government. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.