The Counter-Playbook: Resisting the Populist Assault on Separation of Powers

This article argues that since undermining institutional checks and balances has been the distinctive strategy of “structural populism,” the defense of constitutional democracy must develop a similar disciplined focus, in the form of an anti-concentration principle that makes dismantling separation of powers more difficult to accomplish. This principle has a number of components, addressing most of the major structural elements of constitutional, institutional, and democratic design, and amounts to a counter-playbook on how to increase resistance to the moves that have proven so successful over the past few years. Of course, relying on design to render the concentration of political power more difficult to achieve is not a panacea, and can only be part of any solution, but it is not irrelevant. In particular, the counter-playbook that is developed in this article may help to prevent “political populist” regimes from transforming into the more dangerous structural populist type.