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University of Cincinnati Law Review

Abstract

Transparency has become a preeminent administrative norm with unimpeachable status as a pillar of democracy. But the rise of right-wing populism, reminiscent of older forms of militaristic authoritarianism, threatens transparency’s standing. Recently elected governments in Europe, Latin America, and North America represent a counter-movement away from liberal-democratic institutions that promote the visibility and popular accountability that transparency promises. Contemporary populist movements have not, however, entirely rejected it as an ideal. The populist rebuke of power inequities and its advocacy for popular sovereignty implicitly and sometimes explicitly include a demand for a more visible, accessible state. Populists’ seemingly hypocritical embrace of transparency in the face of their resistance to open government mandates demonstrates transparency’s important historical connections and conceptual affiliations with populism, in the process illuminating its complicated politics and the difficulty of ensuring legal compliance in a period of renewed populism. Drawing on transparency and populism’s historical development and using Donald Trump’s presidency as a case study, this article reveals the relationship between an administrative norm and a political movement and style, and what democracy’s current state portends for transparency’s future.

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