• Tim3003
    162
    I see populism as the politics of an - invariably figure-head led - party whose one aim is power, and whose tactic is to use any democratic method possible to achieve it. This means giving the people what they want (or seeming to), rubbishing anyone who picks apart their flimsy emotive arguments, indeed quashing all argument with ranting and changing the subject where possible; exploiting the public fear of immigration and justiying the necessary counter-measures in the name of national identity; whipping up fear and hatred of an unaccountable 'elite' that allows globalism. Populists don't care a fig for tradition or convention - the end justifies any means. Because their targeted voters are basically uneducated, populists can u-turn, contradict their previous policies and just smile whilst doing so; secure that their followers still trust them. Populism is also usually a facade for right-wing economic policies.

    I'm not sure we can talk about populism as a movement sweeping the world. That assumes some guiding force or creative aspiration. I think it's just the fact of, and the means of, voters' primal fears being exploited by ruthlessly self-serving would-be leaders. Populists are above all opportunists, and the increased mass-movement of labour and goods brought by globalisation has thrown up their chance.

    So, is this just a temporary phenomenon, to be overtaken by an (eventual) recovery from the 2008 crash? Or is future politics to be a constant battle of internationalist liberalism versus insular immigration-fear and xenophobia?
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    Populism is also usually a facade for right-wing economic policies.Tim3003

    Please expand on this.

    So, is this just a temporary phenomenon, to be overtaken by an (eventual) recovery from the 2008 crash? Or is future politics to be a constant battle of internationalist liberalism versus insular immigration-fear and xenophobia?Tim3003

    No, it's more like a snowball effect in that it feeds on itself. In my case, being an American, I feel as though irreparable damage has occurred through the current administration. Restoring faith in accountability and honesty are traits that are severely lacking in American politics.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    One definition of populism is this:

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

    Is that what we're talking about?
  • NOS4A2
    1.7k
    Populism is more a politics of the dichotomy between the elite and the people, no matter their political leanings. I don’t think it can last because once they take power, they are the elite. But I think populism can be beneficial so long as the demagoguery preaches freedom rather than megalomania.
  • Tim3003
    162
    Populism is also usually a facade for right-wing economic policies. — Tim3003

    Please expand on this.
    Wallows

    Are there any left-wing populists ? I'm a Brit, so my knowledge of Trump is limited, but isn't he a free-marketeer? He's not a Democrat.. Here the right of our Conservative Party have taken up populism with gusto. Boris Johnson has quickly usurped Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party as its chief exponent. Both have basically right-wing policies. Populists hate foreign control - so they're anti-EU here, anti-globalist everywhere, and speak in favour of the free-market insofar as it benefits them. They're not explicitly racist, but they champion the employment rights of the home-population against being undercut by immigrant workers or cheap imports. Other examples are Le Pen in France - even Bolsonaro in Brazil.

    I'm not saying populists are especially concerned with economic or political theory - their yardstick is winning votes, but is it coincidence they're all right-of-centre?
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    I'm not saying populists are especially concerned with economic or political theory - their yardstick is winning votes, but is it coincidence they're all right-of-centre?Tim3003

    Your Overtone Window has shifted significantly. I thought Third Way politics worked best for the UK, what happened?
  • Tim3003
    162
    One definition of populism is this:

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

    Is that what we're talking about?
    Terrapin Station

    Yes, but it doesn't 'strive to appeal' in my view. It latches onto base fears, exploits and manipulates them with half-truths and lies; and its aim is to benefit the egos and megalomania of its leaders rather than the ordinary people.
  • Tim3003
    162
    Your Overtone window has shifted significantly. I though third way politics worked best for the UK, what happened?Wallows

    Not sure what Overtone Window means! I guess the Third Way worked well under Tony Blair - until the 2008 crash. Since then ordinary people have struggled to recapture their lost living standards, and are understandably miffed with the political elite. To me the problem is that their loss of faith in the elite is now being exploited by unscrupulous self-agrandisers who offer easy scapegoats and nationalist remedies. Let's be honest, this was the tactic Hitler used to gain power in the 1930's..
  • Tim3003
    162
    Populism is more a politics of the dichotomy between the elite and the people, no matter their political leanings. I don’t think it can last because once they take power, they are the elite. But I think populism can be beneficial so long as the demagoguery preaches freedom rather than megalomania.NOS4A2

    Does it preach freedom? It seems to me it preaches fear of foreigners and building walls to keep them out. Are we free inside a self-built prison?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Yes, but it doesn't 'strive to appeal' in my view. It latches onto base fears, exploits and manipulates them with half-truths and lies; and its aim is to benefit the egos and megalomania of its leaders rather than the ordinary people.Tim3003

    So something couldn't be populism if it didn't introduce half-truths and lies?
  • Wallows
    9.6k


    It's a stretch about Adolf, but I can see some parallels.

    Here's the Overtone Window broken down.

    I still think you Brits have it much better than what the US ideological nativism has produced thus far. Lots and lots of jingoism.
  • NOS4A2
    1.7k


    Does it preach freedom? It seems to me it preaches fear of foreigners and building walls to keep them out. Are we free inside a self-built prison?

    I’m not aware of any of them preaching fear of foreigners. Perhaps you’ve misinterpreted or misrepresented what they actually say.
  • Tim3003
    162
    I’m not aware of any of them preaching fear of foreigners. Perhaps you’ve misinterpreted or misrepresented what they actually say.NOS4A2

    Perhaps 'preaches fear' is the wrong term. What it does is demonise foreigners and whip up alarm that 'they' are out to take 'us' over, subject us to 'their' (foreign) cultures and rob us of our national identity. 'Identity politics' is the in-fashion term to describe this. By invoking xenophobic fear populists can convert political allegiance from relatively reason-based to the level of identity-threat usually found in religious zealotry.

    From experience of the UK scene I'd assert that populist tactic number one is to stoke up fears of immigrant invasions - taking 'our' jobs and using up 'our' public sevices.
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    I saw someone recently characterize the difference between left-wing populism (which is a thing) and right-wing populism something like this: both are ostensibly in favor of the common people against their elite rulers, but left-wing populists see the "common people" as the laboring classes (proletarians) generally and the "elites" as the wealthy ownership classes (bourgeoisie) generally, while right-wing populists see the "common people" as the "middle class" (petite bourgeoisie) of the "normal" national identity (race, language, religion, etc) within the country in question, and the "elites" as some nefarious international cabal of foreigners and their political puppets within the country in question.
  • Judaka
    437

    I think that people are tired of how ineffectual recent governments have been and how ridiculous the other side is. I think the 2016 US election showed two extremely flawed candidates and ideologies battling it out. In EU the situation isn't much different, it's populism vs leftists and the two have a lot in common. They demonise, they hyperbolise, they're self-righteous and they categorise people by their groups. I don't think that either will last forever but I'm also not convinced they'll be going away soon.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    One definition of populism is this:

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

    Yes, but it doesn't 'strive to appeal' in my view. It latches onto base fears, exploits and manipulates them with half-truths and lies; and its aim is to benefit the egos and megalomania of its leaders rather than the ordinary people.Tim3003

    Terrapin gave the definition of populism. What you (Tim3003) describe is someone using a populist style to trick voters (which might be more common, haha).

    In the US populism largely began with Andrew Jackson. Although he was an ass, he spoke directly to voters and promised to address issues that they could understand and cared about. Prior to Jackson, we had things like the Federalist Papers where politicians argued and tried to convince Americans of their ideals through a series of long essays - notice this is NOT going to appeal to the common man.

    MANY modern politicians are populists. If we need examples on the left Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren come to mind. The 2% wealth tax to pay for free college is a populist idea (I happen to like it, but it is very populist). Ranting against wall street and the big banks is populist (the average American will never attempt to actually understand this stuff, so Bernie just hits the emotional highs).

    When do politicians give serious consideration to compromise? When do politicians suggest we have to face difficulties if we really want things to change? These are truths of governing that populists will avoid.

    In today's hyper-partisan world where citizens hear every word and thought of every person running for office, if you are not a populist, you will lose.

    I saw someone recently characterize the difference between left-wing populism (which is a thing) and right-wing populism something like this: both are ostensibly in favor of the common people against their elite rulers, but left-wing populists see the "common people" as the laboring classes (proletarians) generally and the "elites" as the wealthy ownership classes (bourgeoisie) generally, while right-wing populists see the "common people" as the "middle class" (petite bourgeoisie) of the "normal" national identity (race, language, religion, etc) within the country in question, and the "elites" as some nefarious international cabal of foreigners and their political puppets within the country in question.Pfhorrest

    This seems pretty accurate :up:
  • Tim3003
    162
    When do politicians give serious consideration to compromise? When do politicians suggest we have to face difficulties if we really want things to change? These are truths of governing that populists will avoid.ZhouBoTong

    In the UK, after the 2008 crash we had an election in 2010, and the new coalition govt was open about the need to restore the public finances. This led to a squeeze on spending, large cuts, and 8 years of austerity. It's only in the last year or two that this period of austerity has been ended. It was handy that they could blame the deficit on the previous govt, but they were open about the challenges ahead, and dilligent about seeing it through in the face of opposition outcry. Indeed David Cameron won the 2015 election against the background of cuts, so honesty can prove successful sometimes..
  • iolo
    171


    Remember the Liberals' 'personal pledge' to save student grants? Reactionary 'honesty' can 'prove successful' only if backed by total lies, surely?
  • Tim3003
    162
    Remember the Liberals' 'personal pledge' to save student grants? Reactionary 'honesty' can 'prove successful' only if backed by total lies, surely?iolo

    That sounds a bit unfair. As the junior partners in the coalition govt the Lib Dems could not hope to get all their manifesto pledges into the joint policy agreement. As the Tories did not like the scrapping of tuition fees it was axed. Being the govt they were then obliged to vote with the Tories on the subject. I have thought the Lib Dems were unfairly lambasted for this 'breaking of a pledge' ever since. Maybe people in the UK need to learn how coalition govts work.
  • iolo
    171
    That sounds a bit unfair. As the junior partners in the coalition govt the Lib Dems could not hope to get all their manifesto pledges into the joint policy agreement. As the Tories did not like the scrapping of tuition fees it was axed. Being the govt they were then obliged to vote with the Tories on the subject. I have thought the Lib Dems were unfairly lambasted for this 'breaking of a pledge' ever since. Maybe people in the UK need to learn how coalition govts work.Tim3003

    Why? If they'd given a personal pledge, they shouldn't have put the tories in power to do something else, surely? They were backing them because they chose to.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    I'm not sure we can talk about populism as a movement sweeping the world.Tim3003
    I think one can talk about it as a movement sweeping the Western world.

    One reason is the new social media that has made this possible with the algorithm driven media assists and encourages rather rude and aggressive views. The internet companies were far too naive in thinking what the free internet would start to look when masses of people start to use it. One supporting factor is the status of English as a lingua Universalis: media frenzies become global very easily.

    And populism creates instinctively something that could be called "counter-populism", which typically goes with a similar attitudes against the populists and divide people the to 'the common people' vs. 'the populists and their supporters'. Hence you get this not so cordial environment.

    Populism is more a politics of the dichotomy between the elite and the people, no matter their political leanings.NOS4A2
    This is so true. I've pointed out in many threads pointed out that this isn't something inherently right-wing. The confrontational demagoguery and divisive rhetoric of the elite vs the people can and has been used also by the left.

    Of course with Trump it is about right-wing populism. Perhaps the reason is with the death of the Soviet Union and Marxism-Leninism free market capitalism, globalism, doesn't have to be defended in a such way by the right as it was done before. The combination of nativism a left-wing dominated media environment and globalism advocated by a centrist elite creates a fertile ground for right-wing populism.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    and 8 years of austerity.Tim3003

    During 8 years of austerity (that you mentioned is coming to an end), Britain's national debt increased. Why not make it austere enough to have an impact? Why is it ending when "progress" has been so slow? I get that the deficit has dropped significantly since 2007-2008, but a large chunk of that would have occurred anyway as the economy recovered. The UK is still running a deficit, with austerity ending wouldn't we expect that to start trending up again (in a few years, I think they have planned budgets for a while)?
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    I think one can talk about it as a movement sweeping the Western world.ssu

    With the current accessibility of information, along with higher education levels, it seems that ANY modern democracy will be at the whims of populists. Why would voters vote for people they don't understand who offer benefits that don't apply to the voter?

    If a simple view of "populism" would be the political version of "give the people what they want", then of course it will dominate in an open democracy. None of us know the best way to govern, but we all know what we want.

    It seems only "tradition" (religion, party preference, allegiances, etc) would convince commoners away from a populist vote (damn that sounds condescending, to clarify, I would count myself as a commoner, generally).
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    If a simple view of "populism" would be the political version of "give the people what they want", then of course it will dominate in an open democracy.ZhouBoTong

    That would then entail that some kind of socialism should dominate in an open democracy, whether under that name or not, since the thing that most people want is the easement of their material suffering, and since wealth and income are distributed in such a way that most people have far less than the average (mean), the vast majority of people could get that material suffering eased at the expense of the tiny minority who hold all the wealth.

    Put it this way: if a law were passed that levied a tax of X% of your income but gave you a tax credit of X% the mean income, in a country with an income distribution like the US about 75% of people would get more than they pay, and the whole thing would be neutral on the national budget because that's how math works. (Assuming X<100).

    Yet people don't vote for things like that. Which suggests either that your thesis is wrong, or that we don't really have an open democracy. I lean toward the latter.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    Put it this way: if a law were passed that levied a tax of X% of your income but gave you a tax credit of X% the mean income, in a country with an income distribution like the US about 75% of people would get more than they pay, and the whole thing would be neutral on the national budget because that's how math works. (Assuming X<100).Pfhorrest

    Good example of how a populist would NOT phrase their argument, haha. (that probably shows you are actually analyzing what good governance entails)

    In America, the average voter is one good break from being a millionaire (in their minds), so that is why they would not vote for their own best interest. They were sold (and bought) a different populist lie.

    Which suggests either that your thesis is wrong, or that we don't really have an open democracy. I lean toward the latter.Pfhorrest

    Well based on life experience betting on me being wrong is safe :smile: But I would agree that our democracy is limited. But I can think of one major populist idea that might push a little blame onto voters (in America anyway):

    That which governs best is that which governs least...or government is bad.

    My parents raised me on this garbage. And it was pure dogma. For the last 10-15 years I have called out that bullshit with evidence at every opportunity (in the gentlest and most respectful way possible, haha). They are starting to see the light (still republican, but at least anti-trump and realize that if small government is better, then there should be evidence, and they can't find it).

    If we look at populism in Scandinavian countries, it has resulted (at least more so) in many of the policies you would expect.
  • Tim3003
    162
    During 8 years of austerity (that you mentioned is coming to an end), Britain's national debt increased. Why not make it austere enough to have an impact? Why is it ending when "progress" has been so slow? I get that the deficit has dropped significantly since 2007-2008, but a large chunk of that would have occurred anyway as the economy recovered. The UK is still running a deficit, with austerity ending wouldn't we expect that to start trending up again (in a few years, I think they have planned budgets for a while)?ZhouBoTong

    I think the governing principle is not whether there is a deficit, but how large it is, and whether it is less than the rate of inflation. So if inflation is at the 2% target and the deficit is 1.5% then the total debt is increasing at less than inflation - ie decreasing in real terms. Interest rates also have a bearing. As they are now so low both govt and opposition are happy to borrow more. Infact they are talking about instituting new targets for the annual repayment of debt as a % of gdp (I think of ~3% for the Tories and ~5% for Labour), rather than just aiming to limit the size of the deficit.
  • Tim3003
    162
    If a simple view of "populism" would be the political version of "give the people what they want", then of course it will dominate in an open democracy.ZhouBoTong

    That would then entail that some kind of socialism should dominate in an open democracy, whether under that name or not, since the thing that most people want is the easement of their material suffering, and since wealth and income are distributed in such a way that most people have far less than the average (mean), the vast majority of people could get that material suffering eased at the expense of the tiny minority who hold all the wealth.Pfhorrest

    I think that's too black and white. It ignores the huge bulk of the middle class, who are not 'suffering' and who have aspirations to be richer and more successful; also, the aspirational working classes, who espouse hard work and want to improve their lot - whether via freedom to pursue 'The American dream' or just wanting to beat their neighbours you can debate over. As you say, socialist policies would dominate if the easing of poverty was the populist view.
  • A Seagull
    117
    Democratic countries also compete against each other, so if one country raises taxes past those of other countries, their wealth and expertise might well emigrate to other countries, with disastrous effect.

    This is what happened in Venezuela recently. A socialist government voted into power by a populist platform raised taxes and gave the money to the poor. The result was a collapse of the economy with runaway inflation, despite the country having huge oil reserves.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    With the current accessibility of information, along with higher education levels, it seems that ANY modern democracy will be at the whims of populists.ZhouBoTong
    Populism and the divide to "the elite" and "the common people" needs basically an agenda that the so-called mainstream parties either aren't or seem not to be doing anything about. There has to be something that creates in reality or in the minds of people this divide. Otherwise it's really a fringe group of conspiracy buffs that are quite hilarious.

    Populism isn't tied at all to the current situation. For example, before the 1990's here (in Finland) there was basically no immigration to the country by foreigners and the percentage of foreign born people something around 1%. Obviously immigration wasn't then the hot potato, hence the populists were campaigning in the 1980's against corruption (in one of the least corrupt countries in the World).

    If a simple view of "populism" would be the political version of "give the people what they want", then of course it will dominate in an open democracy. None of us know the best way to govern, but we all know what we want.ZhouBoTong
    Openly populist parties emphasize this and their idea of populism leaves out (at least officially) the crucial ingredient: that populism has the important division to "us" and "them" and that "they", the elite, the establishment, the powers at be, are against their ideas.

    There's a distinct difference in saying normal democratic movement "We want this and the leaders should listen to us" and a populist movement "We want this and the leaders are against what we want".
  • Echarmion
    991
    hat would then entail that some kind of socialism should dominate in an open democracy, whether under that name or not, since the thing that most people want is the easement of their material suffering,Pfhorrest

    That seems a bit constructed to me. There is a bunch of emotional needs that people also want fulfilled. People will also not necessarily be aware of what exactly these needs are and how to fulfill them. People also carry a lot of stone-age politics around with them.
  • Pfhorrest
    592
    It ignores the huge bulk of the middle classTim3003

    There is not a huge bulk of middle class. That was my point. About 75% of people make less than the mean income. About 50% of people make less than HALF of the mean income, i.e. the median is half the mean. The mode (the amount that the largest group makes) is close to half of the median, or a quarter of the mean. The vast, vast majority of people are way, way below average.

    If you taxed everyone half of their income and gave them half of the mean income in return, more than half of the population would profit from that to the tune of over $1000/mo, and half of the remainder (the third quarter) would still profit more than they lost, most of the last quarter would lose very little because most of them aren't very far above the mean, and nobody in the country would make less (after taxes) than what is currently the median income.

    But like you, they don't realize that, which is probably why they're not in favor of policies that would help the poor. They don't realize that they are the poor.
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