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,” then the defense of constitutional democracy must develop a similar disciplined focus as its enemies, in the form of an anti-concentration principle that makes dismantling separation of powers more difficult to accomplish. This anti-concentration principle has a number of components in practice, addressing most of the major structural elements of constitutional, institutional, and democratic design, and amounts to a counter-playbook for constitutional democrats on how to increase resistance to, or preemptively thwart, the moves that have proven so successful over the past few years. Of course, relying on constitutional, institutional, and democratic 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.