Populism is defined as ‘support for the concerns of ordinary people’. This statement alone leaves connotations of a happy, satisfied society working alongside an agreeable government, but there’s more to it than you’d think.
Populist philosophy has been steadily increasing in the last 25-30 years, however recently there’s been a noticeable acceleration. The philosophy itself may be seen in a more positive light, however the most prevalent usage has been on the right side of the political spectrum, with notable populists being Donald Trump or France’s Marine Le Pen, who combine it with nativism (anti-immigration) and authoritarianism.
Brexit was a clear demonstration of the power of populism, as it thrives amongst social distress and economic inequality, targeting those who feel alienated within society. This also is responsible for why Trump’s presidency was so surprising, as those whose voice may been silenced previously were now being heard.
The threat of populism is present in its black and white views, which causes the polarisation of society. Since they focus on an individual leader, outside of established parties, they can be prone to dictatorship. In many cases, populists, once in power, have used their newfound tools to reduce liberal democracy, in addition to repressing social movements and their opposition. In addition, in order to generate support, they’re quick to make promises that are too great, and which later fall through. Is this a government that’s looking to deliver a bright future?
Whether we like it or not, populism is looking to be prevalent in our near future, having already taken a strong foothold. We can only hope that other politicians learn from this, and use it to bring the established parties and governments closer to their electorates.