Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Date Written: 17/12/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX23193
The Hungarian legislation and the turmoil caused by Trump's moral equivalencies reveal how politicized space is not a distracting side effect of populist politics; rather, public space treated as a symbol of national identity is a defining characteristic of populism.
The answer, simply put, is that the politicization of public space is not an ancillary problem for populists; rather, it provides a symbolic anchor for the strategic manipulation of identity politics. Populists politicize public space to solidify their base. The removal of Confederate statues quickly became an inflection point for the far-right, and Trump saw an opportunity to use a tense situation as a means of re-articulating and consolidating an identity for his followers, by defining what it means to be a member of the "American people." By coalescing around Charlottesville, fringe-right groups acquired a positive identity to protect whose tangible markers, the scattered remnants of Confederate nostalgia, represent fading monuments to an imperiled cultural heritage. For populists like Orban and Trump, the conflict over public space is not the means to some policy end, like humanitarian relief for disenfranchised populations or preserving historical memories. Instead, spatial politics, a weapon in the construction of political identity, is the end in itself.