Category Archives: Populism

Eek, I’m a Populist!

When I first heard the word “populist” bandied about in the early days of election 2016, my immediate reaction was “Ugh!”– back we go to Father Coughlin and a bunch of guys with pitchforks. Not promising.

Then, when I began to support Donald Trump, first grudgingly and then more enthusiastically, I discovered that I might therefore be a “populist.” Heaven help me.


The European Revolt Continues

The Czech Republic’s parliamentary election represented yet another rebellion against Europe’s political elites. The winning party, ANO, is considered centrist and won nearly 30% of the vote. Its leader, Andrej Babis, is a billionaire and has been described as a Czech Donald Trump.

More… The autumn of Europe’s discontent: With an anti-immigration Eurosceptic billionaire set to be the new Czech PM, MARK ALMOND explains why voters across the EU are in revolt


“Czech Donald Trump” Wins Landslide Victory

Populist tycoon Andrej Babis and his Eurosceptic political party have won the Czech Republic’s parliamentary election — by a landslide — making the “politically incorrect” billionaire businessman the main contender to become prime minister after coalition negotiations.

With all of the votes counted, Babis’s anti-establishment party ANO (which stands for “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” and is also the Czech word for “yes”) won nearly 30% — almost three times its closest rival — in elections held on October 20. The Eurosceptic Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the anti-establishment Czech Pirates Party and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD) came second, third and fourth, with around 11% each.

The Communists came in fifth with 7.8%. The Social Democrats, the center-left establishment party that finished first in the previous election, came in sixth with just 7.2%. The Christian Democrats, the center-right establishment party, won 5.8%, just enough to qualify for seats in parliament. In all, nine parties competed in the election.


Populists poised to shift Austria toward right in upcoming election

Austria looks likely to move to the right in Sunday’s elections. Conservative Sebastian Kurz is predicted to become prime minister, while the nationalist Freedom Party is expected to come second and could become part of the next coalition government.

“All polls show that Kurz will be the winner,” Reinhold Gärtner, professor of political science at Austria’s Innsbruck University, told FRANCE 24. Polls have consistently put Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (OVP) at first place with over 30 percent of the vote.


Patriotism, Nationhood and Globalisation

Patriotism is a love of everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features. It is a love which extends also to the works of our compatriots and the fruits of their genius.— Pope John Paul II, Memory and Identity (2005)

These are unusual sentiments for a public figure to express in much of the West today. Perhaps only a Polish patriot, and one who was born just two years after the re-emergence of the Polish nation in 1918 from the long unwelcome grip of its near neighbours, could understand why nationhood still matters. The terrors and brutality twentieth-century Europe unleashed upon itself—and unavoidably upon others—have, as a direct result, given rise to a European psychosis, particularly evidenced in the European Union where the “death of nationalism” has become bound into its liturgy. A fear of war has contaminated the European view of itself, its place in a new world order and what it must seek to become. Though seeming to cling to its often difficult history, it is reconstructing itself, though, in the words of Melanie Phillips, “the EU is [an] artificial construct, the imagined community that falsely claims for itself the … appurtenances of a nation … which concentrates power in Brussels while reducing nations to the status of provinces”. It has distanced itself from the values which identify a politically active, democratic, liberal, corruption-free and secular polity. The EU leadership has other imperatives.

Seeking scapegoats for Europe’s war-ravaged past, the EU has seized upon nationalism. Such a view is entirely at odds with those modern states which still find strength and energy in the values of nationhood; the USA, Japan and India for example. Nationalism and militarism have sometimes been chained together, though it can quickly be seen that nationalism can operate well without being a vessel for militarism, just as militarism can work without the full benefits of nationalism; but that with an uncertain stability.


Populism is making a comeback in Europe, and Austria is leading the way

Last year’s Austrian presidential election looked like a turning point for the European Union. Alexander Van der Bellen, a soft left Eurofederalist (narrowly) defeated Eurosceptic Norbert Hofer, of the hard right Austrian Freedom Party, and Continental Europhiles went into 2017 with fresh hope that they might halt the tidal wave of Brexit, before it engulfed the EU.

Sure enough, this year France and Holland have both returned Europhile candidates, and Germany looks set to follow suit. The tide had turned, the pundits said. 2016 had been the high water mark of Populism. 2017 would be the year the EU fought back.

However, the tide in Europe may now be about to turn again, and once again the latest sea change is in Austria


Western Populism Didn’t Die Last Night in France

The pundits and the pollsters might have pronounced Marine Le Pen dead, but I never did. I was feeling too tentative after the shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump, and as round two of France’s presidential election began a couple of weeks ago, events suddenly seemed to justify my caution. Le Pen’s opponent, European Union action figure Emmanuel Macron, visited a Whirlpool dryer plant only to be booed, and then had to watch as Le Pen showed up unexpectedly and mugged for selfies with admiring workers. It was precisely the contrast she wanted to strike—the awkward Davos suit versus the tricolor-cockaded woman of the people—and for a brief moment observers wondered whether another Trump-like figure was about to arrive.


Macron victory not the end of populist wave

The European establishment is celebrating the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election. The developing narrative to explain his win is that the European voter has rejected the nationalist populism of Marine Le Pen and come back to support more traditional, establishment policitians and policies.

But as Richard Fernandez points out, the elites are whistling past the graveyard. He writes of both the French election and the probable victory of a South Korean liberal, Moon Jae-in, in tomorrow’s presidential contest as evidence that the populist wave isn’t going away.


How did “populism” become such a dirty word? A left-wing journalist offers some thoughts

Spiked’s Mike Hume’s analysis converges closely with traditionalist/conservative streams of thought, especially in criticising claims that fake news determined election outcomes such as Brexit and Trump. The underlying assumption of many pundits is that the public cannot be trusted to make reasonable judgments in the face of fake news, and that a government/corporate crackdown is therefore in order. …

Hume thinks that their distaste is the driving force. As a Brit, he reflects mostly on Brexit but his analysis would apply across the channel as well. More.


The Dutch Delusion

If you want to know how detached, even otherworldly, Europe’s political and media classes have become, look no further than their response to the Dutch elections. That Geert Wilders, the stiff-haired leader of the Islam-panic outfit the Party for Freedom, didn’t do as well as expected is being celebrated as a ‘blow to [Europe’s] populist surge’. The Dutch people have stood up for decency, the anti-populist set claims, and said ‘Halt!’ to the post-Brexit era of weirdness. This is delusional. Let’s call it the Dutch delusion: the idea that politics as it once was has been defended in Holland, and might be brought back to life across Europe.


France and Populism

“It underscores the need for tighter border controls in Europe,” was the predictable response of Martine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front (FN) and presidential candidate to the brutal Islamic terrorist attack on March 22, 2017 near the British Parliament in London that killed four and injured more than 30. The attack, by the new form of low-cost terrorism by rented vehicles and kitchen knives, was a reminder of terrorist attacks in France that since 2015 have killed 86 people in Nice, and more than 230 people altogether. France knows, as President Francois Hollande remarked, the pain the British people are enduring.

Central to that pain is anguish that immigration has brought too many problems for British society and that multiculturalism has failed. The London attack is likely to have an impact on France, that has experienced even more problems, in the French presidential election, the first round of which is on April 23, 2017, and the second on May 7.


How a Sleepy German Suburb Explains Europe’s Rising Far-Right Movements

BUCH, Germany — Buch, a small community on the outskirts of Berlin, seems at first glance to be the kind of place Goldilocks would declare “just right.” It is not too rich or too poor, not too expensive or too scruffy, not too close to the crowded city center but not so far that its tree-lined streets of tidy apartments are beyond a daily commute.

It is probably not the sort of place people picture when they think about the tide of far-right populism overwhelming Europe. But beneath the surface, this cozy, safe neighborhood is starkly different from the depressed postindustrial zones often portrayed as the populist wellspring, and is emblematic of the forces threatening to upend Western politics as we know it.


Can social mobility (or lack of thereof) predict which is the next country to fall prey to popular upheaval?

Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian engineer, philosopher, economist, sociologist and political scientist, famous, among other things, for his theories about “the elites”.

In his theory of the “circulation of the elites” he argues that social mobility is fundamental for the peaceful continuity of social order: as long as the elite is open to the influx of capable elements from the lower classes, the system is able to rise up to the challenges it faces. When the elites shut themselves off and do not assimilate exceptional individuals from the lower social strata, an imbalance is created that can result in a violent overthrow of the ruling class by a new one capable of governing.

Drawing on that theory we argue that democratic systems have evolved in a way that an overthrow of the elite can happen without violence, but by democratic vote. Lack of social mobility, says Pareto, results in an elite detached from the daily challenges of the common man and a sense of disenfranchisement of the voters.


Pope Francis Hates Populism, Except When He Loves It

Pope Francis recently told Germany’s leading liberal newspaper Die Zeit that ‘Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century shows.’ Except he doesn’t think that.

I suspect I wasn’t the only person taken aback when Pope Francis recently stated in an interview with Germany’s leading liberal newspaper Die Zeit that “Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century shows.”

The pope didn’t specify who he had in mind. Plenty assumed he was obliquely referring to Donald Trump and European politicians like Marine Le Pen. I’m sure, however, that others thought that the pope’s words verged on the kettle calling the pot black. For whether it’s his rhetorical style or the type of political movement to which he appears to lend his support, Pope Francis seems quite sympathetic to some forms of populism.