Why Populism is the Answer.

Populism is a dirty word. In fact, being labelled as a ‘populist’ in the world of politics implies that you are either at the far end of your spectrum or just pandering to whichever way the wind blows. However, in recent times, there have been breakthroughs in our perception of this dirty word which have made it much more palatable. For instance, the leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is a classic example of someone who has broken the mould and ripped up the very lexiconic fabric we’ve come to know. He has been described as ‘the torchbearer of British populism’ by his opposition media and ‘a positive version of populism’ by his supporters. Corbyn is loved by millions for promising to shake up the political establishment through unconventional means and presentation as well as standing up for the working and middle classes.

For heaven’s sake, the man’s party slogan is even ‘for the many, not the few’. Yet, doesn’t this all seem strangely familiar? Perhaps that’s because the leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative & Unionist Party, Prime Minister Theresa May, stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street uttering the words “a country not for the privileged few, but for every one of us”. How is it that two leaders with totally different political points of view reach the same conclusion of in whose interest it is best to govern? Well, dear reader, that is because they are not the only ones to say such things — indeed, former Labour Leader Ed Miliband and former Prime Minister David Cameron also rode on very similar waves. Interestingly, you can see that most high-profile and successful politicians in the modern day have had their careers built upon the rhetoric of populist ideals.

This is no phenomena unique to the United Kingdom. In the Netherlands, we have had the rise of Geert Wilders’ PVV Party. As of the most recent election, the PVV is the second largest party in the Netherlands with most of its support coming from Limburg, Spijkenisse & Almere. These areas in general are more nationalist than other areas of the Netherlands — with a general particular disapproval of the European Union and in some cases, immigration of Moroccans. Whilst of course there are exceptions to this and it would be unfair to speak about the people in certain regions of the country in a generalised manner, the fact that Mr Wilders’ has so much support means that he is clearly doing something right. That ‘something’ is capitalising on the darkest fears of the Dutch using rhetoric which lures the majority of his voters into a false pretence that his party will be able to protect them from the dangers of growing Islam and release them from the evil clutches of the supranational Brussels bureaucrats pulling the strings without the slightest consideration for national sovereignty. It should go without saying that the PVV is clearly a far-right party and it has some very disturbing views which discriminate against one faction of global society and one religion which is simply wrong.

Onze bevolking wordt vervangen als we niet snel handelen!
Our Population will be replaced if we do not act quickly — Geert Wilders F

US President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign in 2016 was yet another example of a large proportion of the American public voting with their fears of what the Mexicans will do to them and the need for rigid immigration controls as well as strengthening their military against terrorists in the Middle East. A particularly relevant part of his campaign is his other slogan — ‘the silent majority stands with Trump’. This slogan captures so well how populist leaders try hard to market themselves as representing the everyday man.

My personal favourite is the rise of Marine le Pen’s Far-Right Party, Front National (FN). I admire Le Pen, not because of her policies for France, but because of the manner in which she has convinced huge sways of the French public with her toned-down vocabulary. When her father created the party, it was much harsher and unacceptable to the average centrist. Under Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party was much more nationalist than republican, and this is really the beauty of Marine Le Pen’s campaign.

She managed to dispense with the blind, nationalist overtones and instead created a populist party that appeals to the masses — a huge portion of society Jean-Marie could only hope of reaching in his wildest croissant-eating, beret-wearing dreams. However, of course, while it is good that Marine Le Pen’s platform has allowed the silent majorities’ voice to be heard, it is also important to ensure that people see through her light rhetoric and understand the true, sinister and intolerant nature at the heart of the FN. So while it is important that populism can allow parties like this to gain some traction, it need always be controlled.

Contre la droite du fric et la gauche du fric, je suis la candidate de la France du peuple!
Against the money on the right and the money on the left, I am the candidate of the French people — Marine Le Pen

This new breed of politician, rising to power in the manner they do, demonstrates that populism is alive and well. More than this, however, is that their rhetoric (particularly those typically on the fringe) has forced some of the more mainstream parties — usually the incumbent ones — to re-think their policies to incorporate popular appeal to them in order to prevent loss of their own party support. Thus, through the voice of demagogues capitalising on this, the average concerned person indirectly has a way to say their darker concerns without standing up and saying it explicitly by simply putting an ‘X’ in a box. By doing so, it simply adds fuel to the fire. Except this fire, providing it is kept under control, can prove to be a bright flame which causes a reflex action rather than one which totally burns one’s hand off as a lot of centre-leaning liberals seem to think. Populism is a necessary instrument in the political process — it is an inspiration and radical wake-up call for change in the broad political arena.

Words: James-Reynolds

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