News & Politics

Thoughts: Populism or just Politics?

New Labour, New Danger

Something quite curious occurred to me the other day while watching yet another news piece on the supposed rise in Populism in the EU and the rest of the world.

What exactly is populism?

Populism according to the English Oxford dictionary is;

A political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.


So it’s that what every politician does anyway?

Isn’t the primary objective of a politician to address the fears, concerns, hopes and desires of their electorate? Well you would be forgiven for thinking so. The problem is that’s not actually the truth. The truth is a bit more materialistic than that. A politicians primary objective is to stay employed, and as an elected official the only way to do that is to keep your votes from your electorate coming in and to do that you need to keep them happy.

This has led me to wonder, is a populist and politician any different?

Well yes and no, a populist tends to be divisive and politicians tend not to be. Is that necessary true? No, just recently a newly elected democrat in America was filmed called for the democratically, if not unpopular, president to face impeachment charges, this was said very clearly to the benefit of a large crowd and was intended to spark waves of support for the idea.

Isn’t that populism? A politician appealing for something to be done that is being ignored by the political elite (the GOP in this case)?

These are good questions, I don’t necessarily believe I have an answer, but it does certainly make you wonder. Is the term populism just being used to tar and feather political opponents in a negative manner to the advantage of another? Possibly. Or maybe its the same old political mud slinging we have always had just updated for the 21st century and made more appealing with the use of a convenient slogan or in this case a buzzword… Not like we haven’t had that before is it?

Anyone remember the slogan “New Labour, New Danger”, I remember the poster and it was rather grim.

It is worth noting that back during the French presidential election the then candidate Emmanuel Macron ran a campaign directly appealing to the public unhappiness with the establishment, he focused his main political points around the centre of the political spectrum, claiming that both the left and right had lost credibility to govern.

It is then perhaps ironic that now Macron is facing worse politic approval polling amongst the French people than those of the US President Donald J Trump amongst the American people. What could of gone so very, very wrong for him?

The trouble with politics is it is in itself a divisive topic, no one that enters its arena will last long unless they are willing to pick a number of issues that they going to address, trying to appeal to everyone on every issue just isn’t sustainable in the long term. Politicians will eventually drop focus on one matter or another and end up upsetting some of their electorate. For a politician the easiest path to success is to align themselves with a number of issues that know they can reasonably achieve and leave the rest to others willing to fight their corner.

This is why we end up with politic parties who are aligned on the left and right, with different political focus priorities, it is just what works and what is sustainable. It’s not populism, its rational political strategising for long term appeal.

So can we stop calling everyone a Populist now and just get back to addressing the issues we elected Politicians to sort out, a good one to start would be Brexit, we’re still waiting on that one you know.

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