Also published on Democracy Chronicles
A wave of populism is sweeping across the Western world, and right now it’s most clearly exemplified in Donald Trump. The established politicians, culture writers, editors and so on are the ones who usually possess the most sensible and thoughtful insights, unlike populists who are blatant, emotional and dangerous; basing their opinions on simplifications and disaffection; not on the facts.
Western-style Government is fundamentally based on the premise that power should be based on the people. But maybe this is an outdated view. Today, society is much more complex. The consequences of referendums are incalculable for most voters, and therefore polls, where people with a lack of knowledge are given the same voting rights as those who have more insight into the issues, may not be appropriate. The entire Western establishment agrees that Brexit was a disaster.
And perhaps populist views and populist politicians should be kept out of the public debate as far as possible as they are irresponsible and even dangerous. The debates on integration issues, foreign policy and the views on leadership, schools, care, democracy, etc. would be more constructive if they were built on the established views and public reasoning and based on liberalism and the Western democratic culture rather than populist stupidity.
Anger, denial and a deep lack of self-confidence.
Populism occurs in response to elitism. To the traditional politician the populist is regarded as simplistic and irresponsible just as the powerful are seen as simplistic and irresponsible to the individual who seeks his own role as a grass roots citizen, the genuine article. Globalization has reinforced the vertical and hierarchical social order. Furthermore, power today is situated in a single cloud in which parliamentary democracy, capitalism, banks, intelligence services and media service providers can no longer be distinguished.
The anti-populist and simplistic political promises of “change” that characterize most Western elections lack value because they are rarely met. In our Western societies, no fundamental changes are created. On the contrary, it seems that Western culture has solidified around work and consumption as its only vision, with more and more stressed, tired and sick citizens. The trend is less analysis, less reflection and increased, convulsive social pace and more individualism.
One might ask which option carries the most superficial messages? Is it the simplistic discontent-confirming populist or the traditional, familiar and reasonable political hawk promising change but delivering the status quo. Is it the new devil or the one we know?
Many people fear a new wave of fascism. The only question is which one; the nationalist and humanly intolerant one? Or the incumbent hegemony: the power-hungry, dogmatic and increasingly fearful and controlling one? Is it Trump’s catastrophic view of women we should pay attention to or is it Clinton’s classic, ingrained patriarchal order we ought to examine? How is it possible that 40% of all voters ignore the fact that Trump doesn’t stick to the truth? Perhaps because the truths and the good argumentation that Clinton represents have never delivered in practice; within the social reality of the citizens.
Maybe we should ask why politicians, courts, banks and the media continue to lose people’s trust. Perhaps that would be something to pay attention to instead of the next political sex-scandal which makes our present state of democracy look like a burlesque show.
The most interesting thing is that there is a profound change in people’s view of the social order. Reduced confidence and increasing indifference to those in power have created new trends and new political thought structures not only among popular protest movements throughout the Western world but also among the ordinary citizens.
The carousel does not end on November 8; it has only just started to spin.