Populist rhetoric, false mirroring, and the courts

Alon Harel, Noam Kolt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The rise of populist political rhetoric signals a departure from accepted models of democratic representation. Nowadays, in Israel and in other democratic countries, many elected officials purport to give effect to the raw convictions of their constituents. We contend that calls for elected officials to mirror popular views undermine democratic representation. In addition to the theoretical challenges it faces, the narrative of mirroring public sentiment has the potential to disguise what might be the underlying intent of populist politicians - to actively manipulate the political agenda and reshape popular preferences, while passing these off as reflecting the public's authentic convictions. We call this "false mirroring."Populist rhetoric has also spilled over into the judiciary. Some judges embrace public opinion, incorporate it into their decision-making and, in doing so, generate populist courts. This article examines Israeli case studies in order to expose the unsettling role of populist rhetoric in both political and judicial contexts. Judges, we suggest, must continue developing tools to resist judicial populism and maintain robust and independent courts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)746-766
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Constitutional Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

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