Posted by on May 2, 2017

Populism and revolt

Fewer than one in five people in America believe “you can trust government to do what is right.” This is from “Revenge of the Deplorables”, a detailed analysis of global democracy put together by the Intelligence Unit, a sister organization of The Economist Magazine.

I’ve written before about this report. You can download your own copy here. Read it. It’s worth it. What the Intelligence Unit is describing is a decreasing trend in Democracy world wide. And while the report does show an increase in democratic activities evidenced by Brexit and and the resulting increase in populist political activism, Brexit itself showed a shift in popular sentiment…and mass dissent in the face of elitist leadership.

The report minced no words:

Pew surveys show that less than one in ve Americans think that you can trust the government to do what is right all or most of the time. In une 016 only 9
of U respondents expressed a great deal or uite a lot of con dence in Congress, according to Gallup. During the Brexit campaign similar surveys revealed a huge divide in levels of trust in government, politicians and experts between Remain and Leave supporters. The same trend of falling popular trust in institutions has been evident in Europe in recent decades, as confirmed by the regular Eurobarometer surveys.

Populism, that elected Trump in America and which supports France’s Marine Le Pen, is on  the rise. However, such leaders can’t offer real and credible answers to blue collar, working class demands. On this, the Intelligence Unit came down hard:

Populist parties and politicians are often not especially coherent and often do not have convincing answers to the problems they purport to address, but they nevertheless pose a challenge to the political mainstream because they are connecting with people who believe the established parties no longer speak for them.

As I see it, their incoherence and inability to credibly respond to people who believe established parties don’t serve them, will only further increase calls for fundamental change as well as status quo alternatives. I love how the Intelligence Unit report puts world leaders on notice (emphasis mine):

The seismic nature of the Brexit and Trump victories should not be underestimated. Politics as we have known it for the past 70 years is not going to go back to normal. The Brexit and Trump breakthroughs could add further fuel to the populist challenge to the mainstream parties that is evident across Europe. The populists are prepared to debate the big political issues of the day, and they are mobilising people to become engaged in the political process and to vote.

I think this bodes very well for fundamental change. Winds are at our backs. But there’s always a shift in the winds at some point in the future. The question is, can we capitalize on these favorable winds by showing the mainstream, which elites denounce as “deplorables”, that there are credible alternatives?

I think we can.

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