Jay G. Blumler
A theme of much commentary these days is "political elites on the ropes"! Many late-modern trends have conspired to undercut their standings with the publics they are supposed to serve. These have included: the uncertainties of large-scale economic and social change (see chapter 1); higher rates of crossborder mobility, productive of multicultural tensions; the growth of consumerism, the reverse side of which is decreased popular interest in politics, mainstream parties, and other political institutions; a widening gap between people's expectations of improved standards of public and personal life, and governments' powers to satisfy them; the plummeting appeal of official political communications (resulting also from a host of influences—including the visibility of politicians' news management efforts and the increasingly negative tone of political journalism, especially, but not exclusively in its tabloid versions); and the decline of ideology, which may seem to reduce governmental processes to little more than management and target setting, toward which it is difficult to mobilize sentiments of belief, conviction, meaningful vision, and staunch partisanship.
The emergence of populism from all these conditions—in public opinion, media fare, political marketing by major parties, and especially in radical-right political movements (the timely focus of this book)—was almost inevitable, even if the forms and levels of success of such movements were bound to vary from society to society. Two overarching and well-judged principles of method have guided the authors' analyses of neo-populist parties and leaders. Neither had been applied to this topic before; both demanded path-breaking and painstaking thought and work; and both proved enormously fruitful. One principle was that the