Populism Rising

By its nature populism is anti-institutional. It downplays party and parliamentary organisation. It favours leaders who have strong media personalities and communicate directly with the general population. The first of these historically was William Jennings Bryan. A magnetic and obsessive public speaker, Bryan captured the US Democratic Party presidential ticket a remarkable three times, in 1896, 1900 and 1908, despite never winning the presidency. Populist politics have been common in Latin America since the 1930s and emerged in Europe after 1945. Populism today is on the rise internationally. In recent elections in Europe the Danish People’s Party won 25 per cent of the vote, the UK Independence Party 12 per cent, Austria’s Freedom Party 20 per cent, France’s National Front 17 per cent, and Norway’s Progress Party 16 per cent. In the wake of Angela Merkel’s open-borders policy folly, the neophyte Alternative for Germany Party received between 12 and 24 per cent in the 2016 state elections. Although these figures fall well short of governing majorities, they indicate populism’s capacity to mobilise votes.

What’s the source of attraction?