Global Rise of Populist Politics Is a Grave Threat to Democracy; Cherrie Short Takes a Look at the Rise of Populist Political Movements in Countries around the World and What It Could Mean

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 14, 2019 | Go to article overview

Global Rise of Populist Politics Is a Grave Threat to Democracy; Cherrie Short Takes a Look at the Rise of Populist Political Movements in Countries around the World and What It Could Mean


POPULIST political movements are on the rise in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other regions of the world. These movements are often headed by a dominant male figure, such as a Donald Trump or Boris Johnson, and appeal to ordinary citizens who feel their concerns are disregarded by the established political and economic elites who run the government.

Many of these ordinary citizens are experiencing the perceived and sometimes real negative consequences of global forces over which they have little control.

Violent conflicts in the Middle East and Central America, and persistent huge income inequality between countries, are causing unprecedented numbers of refugees and immigrants flowing into North America and Europe. Robots and artificial intelligence are changing the workforce, requiring higher levels of education to make a livable wage. Within wealthy countries, income inequality also stands at levels similar to the Industrial Revolution of more than 100 years ago, with declining mobility across social economic classes. And globalisation of production is moving manufacturing and other jobs out of advanced countries to lower-income areas of the world, causing older, industrial areas of many Western countries to suffer precipitous decline.

These forces are creating fertile ground for populist movements headed by strong men, not only in the US and the UK but also in other countries, such as Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Victor Orban in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Andrzej Duda in Poland and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

These movements and their leaders are dangerous to democracy for several reasons. In addressing the economic issues of inequality and declining social mobility, populist leaders typically cast blame on internationalism, trade and immigrants by making xenophobic arguments that advocate extreme nationalism.

President Trump's policy of building a wall on the southern US border, treating refugees and immigrant families and children as bad people who are criminals, and initiating a trade war with China and other countries supports this nationalistic "America First" narrative. Brexit represents populist politics as well. Many think the 2016 referendum vote was won on the back of a toxic form of nationalism combining racism, xenophobia and imperialist nostalgia for the heyday of the British Empire.

Domestically, populist blaming of others for economic ills often takes the form of highly divisive arguments about race and ethnicity, while seeking to preserve the dominant culture and ethnicity.

In India, Prime Minister Modi is using inflammatory rhetoric and hateful policies to promote Hindu culture against Muslims and other religious faiths. In America, President Trump implicitly condones white supremacy groups, attacks Muslim and mixed-race members of Congress, and treats Puerto Ricans differently than Texans when it comes to disaster relief.

Foreign aid and international cooperation are also among the targets of populist politicians. …

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