“Populism is a belief in the power of regular people, and in their right to have control over their government rather than a small group of political insiders or a wealthy elite. The word populism comes from the Latin word for 'people', populus.” (source)
Populism has been marketed by the Left as being synonymous of radicalism, racism, white supremacy and other misguided accusations. In simpler words, populism – as far as the political corrupt establishment goes – equals to threat.
The Left - people whom we can throttle on the morrow of victory, for no government in the world is possible with their principles. We are capable of anything for the good of the country - and our own. - Honoré de BalzacI remember hearing the word “populism” for the first time when I was 18. Back then, in Portugal, a right wing party (CDS) was accused by the Left of being populist. Whenever we hear the Left Wing accusing the opposition of being populist, we are to assume they are acknowledging the competition and have decided to obliterate it by all means necessary.
The Paradox of Populism
If on the one hand populism is the belief in the power of regular people (the very essence of Demokratia), on the other it is the belief that political outsiders can control the government on their behalf; which technically means that populism seeks to ditch one elite (political insiders) to place another one in power (political outsiders who eventually become insiders). Having thought this, populism is basically a reaction to political corruption, that incurs the risk of becoming corrupt itself the longer populists remain in power – quite a paradox.
Can regular people ever control the government? No. Do they want it? Absolutely not, and that is why they delegate the bother of having to manage a whole country on people who are more willing to be insulted and protested against every day. The problem is: it never crosses voters' minds that their delegates accept such humiliation at a cost. And that cost is self-gain (that is usually obtained by fraud and corruption, especially when the delegate enter politics with meagre means); however, when a wealthier individual accepts to be the People's delegate, with everything negative it entails, what does he gain from it? It depends on one's perspective:
A: Special Interests
The wealthy delegate enters politics to influence legislation that will benefit his own, or his family's and peers', business. This was the accusation made against Silvio Berlusconi – the former Italian Premier – when it suited certain groups of people.
The wealthy delegate has no other interest rather than serving the people, and taking them back to the period of glory they once enjoyed – even if that is impossible, given the different circumstances. This may be something that President-Elect Trump is about to find out.
The Danger of Populism
When a politician makes use of populism is must be absolutely certain that he has a plan to rule in a way that makes it seem like regular folks are in control of their country; and the only way to do that is by entertaining them with issues that affect them directly:
- Nationalism (love for the nation's symbols, traditions and borders)
- Education (get rid of the Leftist indoctrination)
- Media (induce them to go back to providing information rather than disinformation)
- Tax reductions (i.e. more disposable income for voters)
- Government size decrease
- Anti-Corruption operations
- Immigration vs Migration (the government must welcome individuals who legally come from abroad to work [i.e. help develop the nation's economy] and shun those who enter its territory illegally. Moreover, the government must only bring in refugees who will easily integrate its society [e.g. Christians are to be given preference in Traditionally Christian countries; Jews are to be given preference in the Jewish State; and Muslims are to go to Muslim nations where they can integrate more comfortably).
If a politician does not work towards solving these issues, then voters will feel betrayed and he incurs the risk of preserving the very rigged system he vowed to fight against. At the same time, when the political leader tries to change the political machine and serve the people, in order to give them back some of the power they lost, the parasites that thrived in the corrupt system will fight against the leader with all their might – this is what happened to President Obama, to some extent (since it's not clear populism was his thing; that is, to give power to regular people).
From a cynical point of view, it is futile to worry about populism because it is only a belief; and since beliefs have a degree of doubt, all its goals are condemned to failure from the onset.
From a positive point of view, populism can be a powerful weapon, and thus a threat to the adversaries, if a politician is wise enough to know how to work based on the concept's premise (although knowing that some tweaking will be required, as the people do not truly want the power to run their country – they just want the perception of having it).
In either case, the political leader must count on fierce opposition to his intent. Is he ready to fight against leeches?
Politics consist in giving the nation an impetus by creating an oligarchy embodying a fixed theory of government, and able to direct public affairs along a straight path. - Honoré de Balzac
(Image: St Francis in Meditation - Caravaggio)