On November 7th, 4 days after Election Day, Joe Biden was projected to have defeated President Donald Trump and declared to be the 46th President of the United States by all major news sources, including Fox News. The reaction to Biden’s win from Trump, his cabinet members, and most of the Republican Party was, in my opinion, completely expected. For example, actions such as Trump posting on Twitter that he “won the election” and that mail-in-ballots are “fraudulent” and many Republican leaders such as Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory are all what I expected. However, something that I did not expect, and find even more frightening, is the actions that Trump’s base took in response to Biden’s presidential win.
For example, not only have Trump supporters chanted the same phrases Trump has said on Twitter such as “stop the count” or “count the votes” at rallies, but they have even showcased their willingness to use violence to keep Trump as President such as sending death threats to Philadelphia election officials over vote counting and harassing a Biden bus in Texas. These violent, aggressive actions Trump has allowed and encouraged his base to commit showcase that even though Trump’s presidency will come to an end in January, his vitriol and political impact will remain prevalent in the Republican Party. Therefore, even though Joe Biden has won the 2020 Election, that does not mean that right-wing populism is completely gone. Populism will remain a prevalent issue, and if Biden wants to keep his vow to “unite America”, not only does he need to acknowledge the presence of right-wing populism in American politics, but he also needs to take certain measures to curb it.
In How Democracies Die, Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky define a populist as anti-establishment politicians who claim to “represent the voice of ‘the people,’ wage war on what they depict as a corrupt and conspiratorial elite”, and “deny the legitimacy of established parties, attacking them as undemocratic and even unpatriotic”. What this means is that populists create a division between “the people” and “the elite” with “the elite” being whoever poses a threat to a populist rule. By creating this division between us and them, the populist can not only picture these “elites” as enemies of democracy that must be destroyed, but he can also convince “the people” that he is representing their best interests and restoring power to them by targeting these “elites”.
This division between “the people” and “the elites” is important because not only does this division invigorate polarization and conflict between these two groups, but it also poses a threat to an important component of democracy known as pluralism. Pluralism is defined by Jan- Werner Müller as when a government creates “fair terms of living together as free, equal, but also irreducibly diverse citizens”. Pluralism is one of the driving foundations of democracy, and the goal of populists is to exclude other groups and create a government that only represents the single, homogeneous, authentic people. What this means in terms of Donald Trump and his base is that during his 4 years in office, Trump has successfully divided the country between “the people” and “the elite” with “the people” representing Republicans, specifically those that idolize Trump, and “the elite” representing Democrats, the media, and really anyone else that criticizes Trump.
Donald Trump has been successful in convincing his base that he is this champion of “the people, that he is representing their best interests by “Making America Great Again” and putting “America First” above all countries. His base fully believes that he is the only man capable of governing the country, so when several media outlets announced that Biden had won the 2020 Election, their hatred for “the elite” and their fear that Biden would bring socialism to the US promoted the aggressive acts from Trump voters that we see today. This violence from Trump supporters is not unprompted though as, for years, Trump has allowed and encouraged such behaviors because he knows that he thrives on conflict and extreme polarization. 
Therefore, while there are several strategies Biden can utilize when he becomes President, one method he should not take is to simply pretend that populism is gone. It is important to note that even though Biden won the popular vote, around 73 million people still voted to keep Trump as President for a second term, and a Biden victory will not suddenly make these voters disappear or immediately recognize Biden as their next President. Considering the aggressive actions taken by Trump voters in response to a Biden victory, Trump’s rhetoric and populism still resonate with his voters. Therefore, simply ignoring populists is not an option since ignoring them will simply reinforce the divisive idea that the “existing elites” have abandoned them or never cared about them in the first place. 
Therefore, I believe that if Biden wants to combat populism, he should try to reach out to Trump’s base, and Republicans in general, to create both open communication and a path to a less extreme Republican Party. Considering that a populist’s strategy is to create division, anger, and conflict between different groups of people in a democracy, Biden should go the opposite direction and try to promote a more inclusive electoral strategy that both persuades Trump’s base to understand the flaws of his rhetoric and mobilizes the broadest possible constituency for change. 
If Biden accomplishes something like this, not only can he create a more cooperative and friendly sense of communication between Republicans and Democrats, but he could also pave the path for the re-formation of a more moderate Republican Party. If the Republican Party wants to survive without depending on Trump’s rhetoric or populism, then they need to marginalize extremist elements and create a more diverse electoral constituency, or as Jeff Flake said it best, not be a party that is “sugar high of populism, nativism, and demagoguery.” 
Sources: Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. Broadway Books, 2019, 18.  Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism? Penguin Books, 2017.  Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism? Penguin Books, 2017.  Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism? Penguin Books, 2017.  Diamond, Larry. “How to Beat a Populist.” The American Interest, The American Interest, 20 Feb. 2020, www.the-american-interest.com/2020/02/20/how-to-beat-a-populist/.  Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. Broadway Books, 2019, 119.
This is an excellent post! I agree with everything you have mentioned here. Trump’s populist and nativist rhetoric has polarized the U.S., which in turn allows him, and only him, to thrive off of people’s anger directed at the “establishment.” One thing that I’m glad you mentioned was how Biden should recognize the populist forces within the Republican Party in order to ensure that he can govern effectively as president. Especially because “ignoring populists is not an option since ignoring them will simply reinforce the divisive idea that the ‘existing elites’ have abandoned them or never cared about them in the first place.” However, I just have one question about this proposed “solution.” How will those right-wing populist Trump supporters respond to Biden doing something like this? In my opinion, Biden will likely spend his first 100 days in office trying to legitimize his win, but will blowback from right-wing populists get in the way of him implementing his policy agenda? Even if he does take some measures to reconcile the differences between his administration and right-wing populists?
Hi there, I loved this post!
I thought that one particularly poignant section of the blogpost, is when you argue that “It is important to note that even though Biden won the popular vote, around 73 million people still voted to keep Trump as President for a second term, and a Biden victory will not suddenly make these voters disappear or immediately recognize Biden as their next President.” I think that this was a really strong point for the blog, and I loved all of your analysis before that point as well. However, like the previous comment on this post, from Mayur, I would have loved more elaboration as to how this can be directly addressed.
If we agree with Cinar et al, and argue that there are two forms of populism – one being “traditional left-wing populism” and the other being a “right winged populism” based off of the anti-pluralism of political elites an ethnic outgroups – I find it hard to argue that Biden could effectively reach out to Trump’s base without engaging in some form of populist tendencies. I like the notion in this paper that Trumpism was a “Pandora’s box” for right-winged populists in the US. However, by that same token, I don’t know if it’d necessarily be possible for him to act as some primordial shepherd who can usher out ideologies that have already bypassed the traditional systems of gatekeeping.