My country had its own Trump. Here’s how we beat him.

Having first secured control of public broadcasting and other media outlets, Meciar was extremely effective in keeping his core group of supporters energized, but not much else. For other voters his frequent outbursts became increasingly off-putting. Even apathetic segments of the electorate were alarmed when, under Meciar’s watch, the secret service cameunder suspicion for kidnapping and nonfatally electrocuting the son of the Slovak president, Michal Kovac, who was Meciar’s political nemesis. The key witness in the case was later killed in a car bombing. These crimes were later amnestied by Meciar during his brief stint as acting president in 1998.

.. Second, Meciar’s demise was precipitated by the emergence of an effective opposition that coalesced around the questions that mattered the most: rule of law and Slovakia’s place among European democracies. Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided.

.. if Trumpism is to be defeated, it will require politicians on the center-right and the center-left to get organized around questions that matter — most importantly, the defense of the liberal democratic character of the U.S. government.

.. In defending himself, he tried to sell his voters a grotesque idea of an international conspiracy directed against Slovakia. His domestic critics, too, were smeared as paid agents of anti-Slovak forces abroad. That message resonated with Meciar’s core supporters, but more and more Slovaks saw that their country’s growing isolation was purely of their own government’s making.

.. Corruption, which reached gigantic proportions under Meciar, has never gone away. Meciar took pride in his crony privatization, which created what he called a “Slovak capital-owning class,” loyal to him. Today, politically connected businesses are enriched through overpriced procurement tenders or tax fraud.

.. Meciar’s infamous amnesties for what were widely believed to be acts of political violence have left a traumatic legacy too, creating an ominous sense of impunity for those in power. His years also entrenched a generation of communist-era judges, many of them in cahoots with the political class. According to a recent survey, only a third of Slovaks trust the court system.

.. nurturing the institutions of liberal democracy requires much more work than simply keeping aspiring authoritarians at bay. It requires ensuring that liberal democratic governments are seen as legitimate and effective at delivering key public goods, including justice and security.