Are we all populists now? It’s the word on everyone’s lips in every discussion and it’s often used to silence an opponent. Even new political movements are swiftly tarnished with the label. But what is populism really?
When we talk about populism, we’re talking about people – it’s in the name. Populists claim that they are the only ones who know the “will of the people” and what to do with it. Modern democracies are hampered by the need for compromise; differing opinions, including those of minority groups, have to be taken into consideration when implementing new laws. That’s complicated. Populists offer simple answers to complicated questions – they’re understandable even if perhaps not feasible solutions.
Europe currently has several examples of so-called populist parties. Germany has the AfD; Viktor Orbán just won an election in Hungary with right wing rhetoric; Austria’s government currently includes the populist right wing Freedom Party of Austria ; Italy’s hard-right League party is part of their government coalition; and the Polish national conservative Law and Justice party is re-arranging the legal system.
Populism is often considered dangerous but what do our readers think? Ivo is certain that you have to win over the “great unwashed” to achieve anything in a democracy because at the end of the day, “majority wins”. That’s his populism. If populist views become socially acceptable, do citizens then feel better represented by or emboldened to vote for populists?
We asked around and posed the question to MEP Terry Reintke. What does she think of Ivo’s comments? Could politics stand a little populism or is it dangerous?
Coming up next, we asked Renaud Camus, a French writer, who talks of a “great replacement” caused by immigration and the subsequent loss of national cultures in his controversial works.
No, I do not think so, but really I am not an expert on the issue. I have been called everything but never a populist, until now. I do not know if populism is a vital element for democracy, but I am convinced that the people are a vital element for the survival of nations. If we change people, we must not delude ourselves: it is a new nation. And as long as the people do not rise up, their great replacement continues.
Finally, we discussed Ivo’s views with Jean-Philippe Turpin who runs the French NGO La Cimade. They take care of refugees in the town of Béziers, France.
No, I don’t think populism is a vital part of democracy. Rather, it’s the opposite of democracy. Democracy is based on reason, a reasoned debate. Populism is the reverse: it is based on the irrational and the absence of debate, or a debate based off of emotions. Indeed, populism is what imperils democracy nowadays. The problem is that this populism feeds off of the dysfunctions of democracy. That is to say, people who claim to support democracy don’t do it as well as one might expect, which helps to spread populist rhetoric.
But, regarding populist rhetoric, it’s not just the populists that we should criticise. We should also look at the environment in which populism propagates. This environment is often created by the politicians themselves or by the liberal politics we have nowadays.
Is populism an important part of politics? Do you think it’s about representing “the common people” or is it destroying the political system right under our noses?