Populism may be here now, but is it imperishable?
It is Netherlands now. And Geert Wilders is pronouncing what we have heard repeatedly, all over again. Brexit has not served as an appropriate example of disengagement and its eventuality, yet.
So, it is time to think that populist governments are here to stay. Though the fine line between power, politics and emotions are staked upon by populist movements, the proponents have their own reasons.
But doesn’t populism promote democracy? Some of us might even construe that populism may be the most limpid form of democracy, after all. But what gives away the affiliation between the two is the execution on a larger scale. Democracy is something that dwells by representation, and balance of powers and rights of individuals as well as communities, while considering people as its centre of power and preservation. Populism comes only half-way, and deviates at precisely the point where it wants peoples’ rights to be reflected in governance. But people have lamented about democracy and its effect, especially since the financial crisis of 2007-08. Tensions regarding leaders elected through democracy have escalated because of resultant misgivings about economic future, especially in marginalised communities. Populism may have been the result of such societal imbalances. Particularly, such an atmosphere of mistrust and blatant bigotry has given rise to charismatic leaders that take account of public anger and the need for more of direct democracy than just political representation. Even if it is seen this way, populism still acts as a catalyst to democracy, by tending to individuals’ rights, and aiding in better representation of these rights. This has also been the truth for the mere fact that liberal democracy has been at crossroads for a long time. But do the reasons for democratic incongruence suffice the onset of populism on such a substantial scale?
The answer lies in the aftermath of a populist incumbent winning the election. Nationalism, populism and protectionism have been utilised simultaneously in recent times, to prove achievement of campaign agendas and promises. We are close to comprehending that there are specific segments of the population that want nationalist agendas. While governments are formed to represent all segments equally, populist governments tend to represent only some of them. The reasons may be rooted in the opposition to the elite, and may border on partisanship regarding ethnic groups and such. This is nothing but right-wing populism, and this cannot be true populism, in any case. Infact, it is the opposite that is happening, as a result. Since there is no strong ideological support, there is little evidence of the issue that such governments (leaders) raise. This makes the outcomes of populist leadership little lesser than abhorrent, if not worse. Since populism feeds on dismal emotions and the need for recognition from a frozen segment of people, it propagates the same, and in a very incessant way, when such leaders come to fore.
What the world is witnessing now is populism that is only remotely ideological, and that which heavily reflects totalitarianism. Authoritarian populism is another word for it. It is not surprising that such leadership burrows itself on policies like those on anti-immigration and international trade relations, and cultural diversity. There is every chance that populist governments become popular, and there are reasons for it: social media, the financial crisis and the gradual renouncing of core populist ideas by such leaders, which may be a result of some political and socioeconomic consequences of such policies. So, apparently, a learning curve is anticipated.