Episode 74: Antidemocratic Insurrections and Populist Uprising—Germany, Brazil, and the United States
Professor, American University
Cynthia Miller-Idriss is Professor in the School of Public Affairs and in the School of Education, and runs the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL) in the Center for University Excellence (CUE). Before her move into the School of Public Affairs in fall 2020, she was Professor of Education and Sociology at American University. In addition to her faculty role, Dr. Miller-Idriss is also Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the U.K.-based Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right and serves on the international advisory board of the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) in Oslo, Norway.
She has spent two decades researching radical and extreme youth culture in Europe and the U.S., most recently through a focus on how clothing, style and symbols act as a gateway into white supremacist extremism. Prior to her arrival at American University in August 2013, Dr. Miller-Idriss served on the faculty of New York University for a decade, and also taught previously at the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. (magna cum laude) in Sociology and German Area Studies from Cornell University. She is a former AICGS research fellow.
Senior Fellow; Director, Society, Culture & Politics Program
Dr. Eric Langenbacher is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program at AICGS.
Dr. Langenbacher studied in Canada before completing his PhD in Georgetown University’s Government Department in 2002. His research interests include collective memory, political culture, and electoral politics in Germany and Europe. Recent publications include the edited volumes Twilight of the Merkel Era: Power and Politics in Germany after the 2017 Bundestag Election (2019), The Merkel Republic: The 2013 Bundestag Election and its Consequences (2015), Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe (co-edited with Ruth Wittlinger and Bill Niven, 2013), Power and the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations (co-edited with Yossi Shain, 2010), and From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic: Germany at the Twentieth Anniversary of Unification (co-edited with Jeffrey J. Anderson, 2010). With David Conradt, he is also the author of The German Polity, 10th and 11th edition (2013, 2017).
Dr. Langenbacher remains affiliated with Georgetown University as Teaching Professor and Director of the Honors Program in the Department of Government. He has also taught at George Washington University, Washington College, The University of Navarre, and the Universidad Nacional de General San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has given talks across the world. He was selected Faculty Member of the Year by the School of Foreign Service in 2009 and was awarded a Fulbright grant in 1999-2000 and the Hopper Memorial Fellowship at Georgetown in 2000-2001. Since 2005, he has also been Managing Editor of German Politics and Society, which is housed in Georgetown’s BMW Center for German and European Studies. Dr. Langenbacher has also planned and run dozens of short programs for groups from abroad, as well as for the U.S. Departments of State and Defense on a variety of topics pertaining to American and comparative politics, business, culture, and public policy.
President of AGI
Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.
Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.
Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.
In December 2022, German authorities arrested dozens of people tied to an alleged right-wing extremist plot to overthrow the German government. Among the accused are a member of a former German noble family, a member of the German army’s elite force KSK, and a former member of the Bundestag from the far-right AfD party (who had worked as a federal judge). The alleged conspirators are tied to the Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the modern German state and seeks to overthrow the Federal Republic. This incident echoes recent attempts by right-wing extremists to terrorize or overturn democratically elected governments by violent means on both sides of the Atlantic, including most recently the attempted insurrection in Brasilia on January 8.
On this episode, AGI President Jeff Rathke and AGI Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture, and Politics Program Eric Langenbacher join former AGI fellow Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, one of the United States’ leading scholars on extremism and radicalization, to assess trends in right-wing extremist mobilization and its impact on politics and societies in Germany, the United States, and beyond. Dr. Miller-Idriss is a Professor at American University in Washington, DC and is the founding Director the AU’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL). We discussed whether current approaches to monitor right-wing extremism are sufficient. Have extreme groups around the world become more dangerous by learning from each other’s attempted attacks on democratic institutions? What can be done to prevent mobilization of antidemocratic extremists and normalization of political violence?
Jeff Rathke, President, AGI