(CNN)For four years, Donald Trump has been the world's standard-bearer for right-wing populism. The movement didn't begin with Trump, but the US President championed it in a way no other leader could, using the weight of the most powerful office on Earth to give it legitimacy.
Trump's loss dealt a blow to global populism. But the movement is still alive and kicking
His election loss naturally dealt a blow to populist leaders, particularly those who share Trump's autocratic streak. Many had used the President's anti-migration, xenophobic, sexist and anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric to justify their own. That cover has now gone.
But that doesn't necessarily mean the populist wave has crested -- not in the United States, nor the world at large.
President-elect Joe Biden won the Electoral College vote fair and square, but he did so on the thinnest of margins in a handful of key states. Trump still garnered over 47% of the popular vote, more than 73 million ballots. The results were hardly a riposte to the President's divisive, populist leadership.
If support for populism has eroded in the US, it has done so only marginally, and the same can be said for much of the world.
The pandemic has done little to dampen global populism. Trump almost certainly paid a political price -- an election exit poll showed that the majority of voters (52%) considered containing the virus a more important issue than rebuilding the economy (42%). But he still won over nearly half the country's voters, despite his bungled response and more than 260,000 American deaths.
In the early months of the pandemic, countries with stronger democracies appeared to be faring better than those with strongman populist leaders. But as the pandemic ebbs and flows, that assumption is being challenged.
Brazil and India -- which, like the US, have populist leaders -- might be suffering with soaring infection and death rates, but so too is Western Europe, a bastion for liberal democracy. Even Germany, earlier celebrated for what looked like a model response to the virus, is finding its huge hospital network under strain as it struggles to keep the virus at bay.
Several autocratic populists saw their approval ratings dive in the midst of the pandemic, but many have recovered remarkably fast.
In Brazil -- despite what looks from afar like a blatant failed response to the virus, akin to America's -- recent polling shows President Jair Bolsonaro is enjoying the highest approval ratings of his term. It's in part to do with state payments to compensate Brazilians who have lost jobs or income, and that scheme could soon come to an end. But that Bolsonaro has come this far politically unscathed by his chaotic pandemic response speaks volumes about Brazilians' faith in him.
It's the same story in Russia. President Vladimir Putin's approval rating fell to a historic low in May, to 59%, as the country battled a spike in coronavirus infections, Levada-Center polling shows. But that was short lived. Putin is back up to 69%, in line with levels over the past two years, even as Russia battles a challenging second wave of Covid-19.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has done well out of the pandemic too. His popularity rose sharply at its onset, and while it dipped below 50% during the hard spring and summer, it has since recovered and is now higher than in recent years, a MetroPOLL survey shows. That's despite cases in the country trending upward.
Populist leaders in Asia are also showing little sign of fading away. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- a right-wing Hindu nationalist outfit -- and its allies won the country's first Covid-era election earlier this month in the state of Bihar, which they were expected to lose. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's popularity