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Alex Muckenfuss

Professor Malcolm Campbell

UWRT 1104


Topic Proposal: Popular Populism


Populism, is defined as: "support for the concerns of ordinary people." The

power of the people, and similar rhetoric has a long and important history in

American politics, and politics around the world. However, in the last 10 years

there has been a sudden increase in populist movement's especially with the

rightwing in developed democracies. The United States and Western Europe have

historically been able to mirror each other with political movements; but the tidal

wave of populism taking over developed Western nations in the last ten years has

been nothing if not eerily similar. The rise of Marine Le Pen in France, Geert

Wilders in the Netherlands, Right Wing Parties in Germany, Austria and

Scandinavia have hit on the same themes at the same time (pointed out by Graham

Wilson in the British Journal of Politics) and perhaps none of them are more

strikingly similar than the election of Donald Trump and the so-called Brexit

vote. I think people in this country have had enough of the experts, a key part of

the message to all of the movements listed above. So, how are these increasing
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populist movements affecting the political landscape and society at large? I will be

doing my best to answer these questions, by diving into the last 10 years of

political history in Western Europe and the United States.

Initial Inquiry Questions

While "movements of the people" might seem harmless, or even in the

interest of society, I feel there are some misconceptions that are very dangerous.

Emotion is a strong tool for these political movements, they either inspire a feeling

that strikes a chord with you, or they make you so mad that your visible anger is

fuel for the other side. I want to explore this, so one question I want to look into is:

are people more influenced by a political idea they agree with or disagree with, in

other words do people generally respond stronger to positive or negative emotions?

An aspect of American politics that has been largely forgotten despite its

significant influence is the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Now more

than ever, dark money from corporations and the elites has been easier to get into

a campaign, yet the politicians are serving the people more? Are these politicians

that are rising to power so quickly really serving the needs of the people, or are

they serving an increasing amount of special interest groups and corporations? I

see an exponential rise in at least two things that should be polar opposites; the

amount of dark money in politics, but somehow also "movements of the people."

So, why is populism becoming so popular?

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My Interest in this Topic

I'm interested in this topic because I have always enjoyed following politics.

This is something that is significant not only to me, but has an effect on everyone. I

believe the movements I have mentioned share a common thread in their rhetoric

which knowingly divides voters and hide behind the shade of being "in the interest

of the common person." The media does not help in this regard. In the age of 24-

hour cable news networks where anchors have to compete with more entertainment

content than ever before the news is required to be more entertaining to drive

ratings and sustain ad-revenue. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, are built for one thing:

9/11, however 9/11 doesnt happen every day; so they have to find another

breaking story. This is important because these networks and other news outlets

online will often fill this void with a story about politics. According to Deana

Rohlinger of FSU, news coverage from both cable networks like these and online

news sources have been found to be more likely to criticize someone or some

group than to praise someone/group. It is a popular opinion that cable news is one

of the most destructive things to ever happen to Politics, however I think the origin

for this outrage is misplaced. I believe a lot of news coverage does not share a bias

for partisan purposes, but for sensationalism. Since politics and the media are

always connected, part of my interest in this subject of course is in the changing

landscape of news coverage. I believe that the way news is reported right now it
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not only makes it easier for these movements to gain traction, but encourages it. To

be honest, I have actually had trouble narrowing the scope inside this topic because

my interest is quite strong, I could write specifically about a number of things in

this topic, and I believe by planning to write about the right-wing populist

movements of Western Democracies I will have the ability to do that while still

staying focused in that specific area.

Next Steps
During our time in the library I found at least 6 sources that will serve as a

good place to start from as I look to dive deeper into everything. I have gone

through them to aid in the writing of this topic proposal already, and I know now

which articles I can use a launch point to search for closely related sources. All of

these initial sources are academic articles which will be very credible and contain a

lot of information on some specific areas I might need to learn more about. I think

one challenge I might run into is when writing about politics, it is often hard to

keep ones personal views completely out of the tone/voice, which may be a

problem since Im looking to gather information and not any fake news or

alternative facts. My first step after this is to look to see if Graham Wilson has

written more about this subject, because I found his article to be especially

enlightening and well written.