You are on page 1of 12


Populism: Making the World Great Again?

How unlikely was the presidential election victory for Donald Trump? According to (an online odds making site) Hillary Clinton favored at -300, meaning its safe to Deleted: With

say most people did not see it coming. What was more than 1,000 times (literally) less likely to

happen than a Trump presidency? A victory for the so called Brexit campaign in the United

Kingdom. Anyone who wants to read about one of these unique, once in a lifetime political

events have more choices on the internet available to them than a soccer mom buying

groceriesyet the underlying theme and rhetoric of these movements have been left

unconnected to the larger scheme of things in the mainstream. I believe the political uprisings

in developed democracies are connected and could potentially be dangerous if there is not

some sort of course correction.

It was early spring, and a presidential hopeful stood in front of the cameras citing a

failure of leadership in Washington to drive him to run for President of the United States. This

candidate was thought by most to be a longshot, guaranteed to not make it out his partys

primary process. He was unconventional, unexperienced, but many say hes a very charismatic

speaker and despite his unconventional ideas; were drawn to him. Which candidate am I

speaking of? Why President Obama of course. In a weird way, President Obama lead the way

for future ideological movements and candidates similar to what has now been popularized by

President Trump. There are other parallels that can be made, (such as their fundraising tactics

to go outside their party system) but whats important is that right wing populism as we know it

right now started on the backs of a democratic outsider chanting: yes we can in 2007.

Fast forward a couple years. America has now elected its first black presidentand

many people arent a fan of his politics. Ratings for the talking heads like Sean Hannity, Glenn

Beck, and Rush Limbaugh are skyrocketing according to Nielsen. These and others are gaining

popularity by giving daily diatribes on how the government is broken, the media is fake, and

dealing out conspiracy theories as fact (like say, the birther movement). Their voices would

ultimately give way to a new political movement on the right-wing: the Tea Party. In the 2010

midterm elections in the United States; the Tea Party dominates and not only do they win back

the House but they lessen the democratic majority in the Senate.

Across the pond in Europe, an interesting shift is taking place. Mainstream parties are at

historically weak points they havent seen since the world wars (Boos 2014). Insurgent policies

are popping up in The Netherlands, in France, and UK most notably. All of these parties have a

leader who is seen to be a charismatic politician on the rise. The mainstream incidentally aids

the growth of these parties across Europe as they begin to adopt watered-down versions of

their rhetoric and policies with the intent to steal votes. This happens in America as well; new

radical Tea-partyers start to convince established republicans like John McCain they are not

conservative enough. As a result a growing sense of legitimacy for these political outsiders and Deleted:
Deleted: A
insurgents allows them to not only hang around but gain momentum and the right is pushed

further out right.

Now; the stage is set. Donald Trump, Marine le Pen, Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders are

now front and center on the world stage and there are other candidates in several parties

starting to capitalize on the perceived populist rage of social and economic changes to western

society. A lot of these changes seem to be benefitting certain people enormously, while leaving

many to feel left behind, forgotten about, and ignored.

The first parallel to draw across these movements is in the underdog element. The

aspect of proving people wrong is more than a talking point for media coverage. There is a

common demographic across these countries that are receptive to this message being: working

class white (Cohn 2016). While cultures undoubtedly have many subtle and not so subtle

differences, the psychological makeup of a type of a person (in this case working class white) is

always going to have some similarities because of the environmental resemblance. This type of

person (the common person), is more likely to sub consciously or consciously gravitate

towards the David archetype from David and Goliath. Proving the elite, know-it-all, pundits

wrong feeds into that narrative. Whether knowingly or on purpose, the little guy standing up

to bureaucrats was a big part of the exploited rhetoric for these political movements. Across

national boundaries, the first shared theme can be identified as the underdog complex.

The next dot to connect between these movements is a strongly shared bit of rhetoric:

getting control of the borders/tighter immigration. All of these political movements have made

it a point to bring immigration (or rather the lack of it) to the forefront (Wilson 2017). This

brings in a lot of baggagerisking scrutiny and opening up to be called racist, or xenophobic--

but it is a calculated risk as it is shown to strike a strong accord with the target base. In fact,

research done with focus groups by the Leave campaign in the UK showed that aversion to

immigration was their strongest weapon (Wilson 2016). This is one of the more dangerous

messages from these political movements.

Geert Wilders the leader of the PVV in The Netherlands once said the Koran was a Formatted: Indent: First line: 0.5"

fascist book while also calling Islam a totalitarian religion. Marine Le Pen once stated: I am

opposed to a multi-cultural France. The former Prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott said:

Jesus knew there was a place for everyone, and its not everyones place to be in Australia.

Boris Johnson one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign once said: Orientals have larger

brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole. President Trump said on the

campaign trail: The more economic difficulties increase; the more immigration will be seen as

a burden. Okay, actually I lied about that last one he didnt say that. However, that is a real

quote from a leader admonishing immigration, actually Adolf Hitler was the one who said that. I

know its super lame and disingenuous how people always compare politicians they dont like

to Hitler but all Im saying is there was a moment where you totally believed me and that

should count for a little something. History has shown that nativist, anti-immigration rhetoric

leads to tragic things and it has been said that those who can not learn from history are Deleted: do not know

doomed to repeat it.

The comments from these leaders are not individual slips of the tongue and should not

be treated as such. Once is an occurrence, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern.
The record of this inflammatory rhetoric is proving they are flat out inviting divisiveness.

Unfortunately, here in the United States we watched horrified this summer as tensions finally

boiled over in Charlottesville, VA. Its terrible, but it wasnt even that shocking to many because

what else could be expected after pulling the pin of a grenade if not that it will explode? What

made this disaster even more heartbreaking was the lackluster responseor lack thereof

from our Commander and Chief. While the fire of racism was burning down Charlottesville our

President stepped back and added fuel by saying there were good people protesting for white

supremacy. Repeated racist comments not only strongly suggest that the source of the

commentary is racist, but invite racism from a following; at some point we have to be willing to

make the leap that the people who talk this way are racist and perhaps more important

recognize that the large followings of these people are infested.

The next similarity isnt as glaring, yet speaks to a pattern among these movements

nonetheless. The basis of right wing populism in the UK was built on leaving the EU, and a

constant bullet point Trump hit on in his campaign stump was to leave NAFTA. While leaders

like Le Pen and Wilders may not have had the same opportunity to leave the EU like in the UK,

it is certainly no secret where they stand. Marine Le Pen going as far to say that the British

people should be proud everyday for the referendum result. While this detail might not seem

as significant as say immigration, it speaks volumes in terms of learning about the rhetorical

pattern established. Its not about substance, but the feeling of these moves. When President

Trump backed out of the Paris climate agreement, it was to make a point--he wanted to put

America first no matter the perceived cost. A disregard for transnational organizations and
agreements is another common thread. Abandoning these things drives home the point that

bureaucrats and their fancy policies are bad, and that the people who set up these systems

werent doing it with the common people in mind.

Nationalism was a contributing factor that cant be ignored within these political

movements. To make ones country great again, returning to better times was no doubt a

sentiment pushed by many campaign leaders. This is an overlooked element by a lot of people

because, so what of course politicians from different countries think their country has a right to

be recognized as the best, whats wrong with that? I must again return to the pages of history

because, what else can we use to predict the future other than the past? History is clear;

nationalism is dangerous. Nationalism leads to genocide and racism and conflict and war.

Nationalism leads to Bosnia. Nationalism leads to World War I. I know its hyperbole to say

were on the brink of World War, but lets take a brief look. Before World War I countries across

Europe were taken over by propaganda from small, insurgent political parties that lead

governments to believe other countries in Europe werent as good. America was experiencing a

sudden wave of immigration that made it difficult for a lot of people to find workand many

people resented this fact blaming Jews, Irish, Italian, Polish immigrants for a lack of work. Im Deleted: h
Deleted: ,
not saying Im just saying.

Now, to focus in more on Donald Trumps campaign for presidency, and the Leave

campaign. An alarming parallel between them is a surprising amount of alternative facts if

you willand their use on the campaign trail. A popular line from the Leave campthat was
even plastered to a buswas that Britain was sending 350 million pounds a week to Brussels it

could be spending on national health care (Leave 2016). However, this number was widely

criticized as Britain gets back a substantial sum from the EU every week. Being such, it ends up Deleted: Also

that the difference in the money is worth it because without being a part of the EU, Britain

would have to establish its own individual trade deals with each of its European neighbors

which would end up being more expensive. As John Oliverhost of HBOs Last Week Tonight--

put it the bus should have read: We actually send the EU a proportion of our GDP which makes

fiscal sense. In fact, considering the benefits we reap in return oh shit, were running out of

bus! Okay bye!

The Trump campaigns affinity for twisting the facts was fairly well documented as well. Formatted: Indent: First line: 0.5"

To name a couple, stating that the Mexican government wanted criminals to cross the border,

the US corporate tax rate is the highest in the world, and Poltifacts lie of the year: Muslims in

New Jersey were cheering when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. Why were these and other lies

deemed okay by supporters? Statistical analysis shows Trump did amazing among voters whose

education was no higher than a high school diploma (Cohn 2016). Supporters of Trump

overwhelmingly sighted emotion over logic as to explain why they voted for him. Obviously,

part of the appeal of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, or Boris Johnson wasnt that they were

wordsmiths, but rather unafraid to speak their mind and reject the politically correct

mainstream. These politicians were popular among voters who had a disconnect with the

elites who were spewing the data, so it became all too easy to simply go along with Trump,

Farage, and Johnson in blissful ignorance or willing denial.

Commonality in these political leaders would suggest that they would enhance Deleted: ... [1]

diplomatic and economic relationships. Focusing on the US and UK for a minute, (the other

leaders which have been discussed dont have oversight of the executive level of government)

both countries are currently saying the right things, being that there is a level of pressure to

continue the special relationship of the United States and the United Kingdom. The short

term would suggest that a United States government especially with Trump at the helm) will be

looking to help out a United Kingdom economy wherever they can. However, down the road is

where things start to get interesting. The fundamental reason the United States and the United

Kingdom have had such a special relationship in the past is precisely because of the influence

it allowed them to exert over the rest of Europe. The UK was as close to a US representative in

the EU as it gets over their tenure. With the UK now giving the rest of Europe the cold shoulder,

eventually--no matter who is President of the United Statesit will become obvious that the

United Kingdom is no longer supplying the United States with the same diplomatic benefits

throughout the rest of Europe (Wilson 2016).

Economically, the dangers these movements pose is: unpredictability. According to the

Financial times, since the victory of the leave campaign, the British markets have seen a steady Deleted: S

decline with some effect rippling into the rest of Europe. Both consumer and business

confidence have been hovering pretty low as the cloud of Brexit continues to loom with many

more questions than it seems like anyone who voted to leave anticipated. In the United States,

the market has actually been reaching all-time highs post Trumps election, however this is
mainly due to the current interest rates set by the FED and cycles that were starting to take

place before Trump took office, and would have most likely continued no matter who took the

Oval. The biggest economic indicator which has been troubling for the United States is

unemployment has been starting to go up again since early this year. Its hard to say what Deleted: back on the rise

specifically will be the economic consequences and that more than anything that is the point.

The World Bank said: The heighted level of policy uncertainty, especially regarding trade has

been notably exacerbated. This was after the World Bank adjusted their projections for

economic growth to decrease in 2017.

I believe there are also social/cultural consequences that should not be overlooked. Deleted:
Formatted: Indent: First line: 0.5"
These are perhaps the easiest to predict, as some of these ramifications have already begun to

happen. Over time, if it is repeatedly said to not trust certain institutions, the association begins

to form whether it is warranted or not. The American publics trust in the media is at an all-time

low according to a poll conducted by Gallup research. There is no one left to hold anyone

accountable when the truth is no longer regarded as an absolute but up to interpretation.

Aside from that, several countries legislative bodies have found that while these parties and

politicians are great at campaigning (they had the better part of a decade to practice), they do

not know how to govern. The platform was everything the people in congress or parliament is

wrong, but now given the chance to institute changes, something beyond grandstanding and a

surface level disagreement is required. Perhaps the best example of this is the debacle with

health care in the United States congress over the summer. Governing is different from

campaigning, and some governing has been brought to a grinding halt. Deleted:

A new era of politics has been ushered into developed democracies around the world,

and we are all in uncharted waters. Not only has there been one or two odd occurrences in

politics but a pattern of connected events can and should be recognized. This pattern could be

dangerous if we do not seek to understand and question what has been presented to us in

recent history. So, what does this all mean? A western society lead and controlled by the

populist radical right does affect you and your life. If the overwhelming pile of evidence that is

directly negatively affecting other peoples lives isnt enough on its own to convince you picture

this: a society where there are increasingly less consequences for those in power because they

simply will not accept them, a society where the media can no longer ask tough questions of

our politicians because they are called fake and journalism becomes talk radio, a society which

clashes in the street monthly because there is no longer anything civil about discourse.

Diplomatic, economic, and social consequences of ignoring what is happening will not be kind.

The alternative? Lets make our world great again by standing up for truth, trust, and


... [2]
Deleted: ... [3]
Formatted: Left

Works Cited

Boos, Linda, and Kees Brants. Populist Rhetoric in Politics and Media: A Longitunal Study of

the Netherlands. European Journal of Communication, vol. 29, no. 6, 15 Sept. 2014, pp.

703719., Web. 15 Oct. 2017.

Cohn, Nate. Why Trump Won: Working Class Whites. New York Times, 9 Nov. 2016,

Elliot, Larry. Trump and Brexit Put Global Economic Growth at Risk. The Guardian, 10 Jan.



Giles, Chris. The UK Economy since the Brexit Vote in 5 Charts. Financial Times, 26 July


Taylor, James, and Baz Hatfield. Last Week Tonight. French Elections, performance by John

Oliver, season 4, episode 9, HBO, 16 Apr. 2017.

Weprin, Alex. July 2011 Ratings: Fox News Still On Top. Adweek, 2 Aug. 2011,


Why Vote Leave. Vote Leave, Nation Builder,

Wilson, Graham k. Brexit, Trump, and the Special Relationship. British Journal of Politics

and International Relations, vol. 19, no. 3, 1 Aug. 2017, pp. 543557.,


Page 8: [1] Deleted Muckenfuss, John 11/15/17 10:03:00 AM

Page 10: [2] Deleted Muckenfuss, John 11/27/17 10:04:00 AM

Page 10: [3] Deleted Muckenfuss, John 11/15/17 10:23:00 AM