Abstract: This article examines leaders’ ability to take care of the people during a global pandemic. The article focuses on two populist leaders in Spain: Ada Colau, Barcelona’s mayor and a global municipalist referent, and Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid and a referent of the new right in Europe. The analysis is informed by theoretical discussions on care, examining how populists perform micro and macro practices of care(lessness) as reflected on their Instagram accounts. How has a global pandemic affected populists’ unspoken role of taking care of “their people”? Do they understand care as an individual or as a collective enterprise that challenges capitalist forms of annihilation? The article takes a feminist approach by challenging traditional male-centric analyses of populism. Methodologically, the article advances our understanding of discursive, visual, and affective approaches to digital storytelling. The data is analyzed through a combination of content analysis, a performative approach to populism and visual rhetorical analysis. The results show important differences in how right- and left-wing populists create their ethos as carers and establish emotional connections with those they care about, performing radical care versus neoliberal carelessness.
Keywords: Ada Colau; care; female populist leaders; Isabel Díaz Ayuso; new left; new right; pandemic; performance; populism; Spain