LTE: The rise of populism

Illustration by Jacque Chandler

To the editor:

Politics get more confusing every day with the distinction between the political left and right becoming less transparent. Some politicians have run away from the typical identification of being a Democrat or Republican and resorted to other tactics to employ their jurisdiction. The rise of leaders such as Viktor Orban in Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey is paired with a new form of politics that has been a phenom as of late: populism. Is it the political paradigm of the future?

Populism is a style of politics rather than a set ideology and denotes that a certain sect of people are going against an elite that they see as illegitimate. Populist leaders claim that they are fighting for the rights of the people and have a heavy notion of nationalism to accompany it. French politician Marine Le Pen urged in her campaign that immigration was the catalyst for such a high unemployment rate in France, with 10 percent of the French population affected. Her approach from thereon was to create a scapegoat from the number of immigrants flowing into France and claim that banning them would secure employment opportunities for French citizens. The annexation of immigrants and her rhetoric towards what she thinks is their effect on the economy speaks volumes to her nationalistic attitude.

A more recent reel of populism that has been seen all over the world is the political reign of Donald Trump in the United States. One would think that unbearable comments about women’s genitalia and immigrants would kill a candidate’s chances, so what is it that he did to convince enough individuals to vote for him? The key to his success is giving the people what they want, whether it is saying something specifically or employing action. A vast number of Americans have been worried about illegal immigrants in recent news, keying in on several different groups like undocumented Mexican individuals crossing the border and starting a life in a country where more opportunity awaits them. Targeting this demographic is Trump’s way of listening to the concerns of the people and appealing to their demands, and that is the essence of what a populist leader does.

Other examples lie in countries like Germany, Italy and the Netherlands as recent elections show that populism is on the rise in both hemispheres and creating a new political climate all at the same time. Over fifty five percent of voters in Europe, roughly one third of the population, voted for an either left or right-wing populist candidate in their country’s election. The changing attitude that has corralled so many Europeans might create a drastic change to the current layout of the EU, with the possibility of other members following the footsteps of Britain in an anti-immigrant policy tirade mixed with high notions of nationalism to support their decision of leaving the organization. Although some populist leaders failed in their campaigns, like Dutchman Geert Wilders and Le Pen, their actions are only precursors for what future populist candidates have in store.

Contemporary news has informed us that the often subjective terms “left” and “right” are getting more blurry every day. Societies worldwide have strayed away from traditional governing and welcomed new forms of rule holding the conjecture that they would be treated better. Populism fits into the narrative of new political ideologies that are executed in hope for different results. It is quite possible that in future elections that we will see more populist leaders and other political deviations trying to obtain control over their nation.


-Lawrence Jones III

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