Austerity has created the perfect fertile compost for populism and nationalism to flourish.
With each passing day, the world is becoming more dangerous.
Populism, nationalism, extremism and fascism are arising from the ashes of WW2 as, like the phoenix, they seem to regenerate cyclically.
Since the 1970s, progressives, liberals and moderates alike have slowly allowed for a political void to grow underneath their feet. A heap of social issues such as pensions, unemployment, security and healthcare have been left to rot for decades on the political field because of tough economic conditions, also known as ‘austerity’, created by successive governments.
From police budget cuts to public sector cuts, the continuous rise in state pension age and the cuts to social welfare programmes, the social issues have slowly decomposed whilst priority was given to other questions (privatisations, investments, tax-cuts, housing…) to please business owners, shareholders and the financial market.
After their decomposition, however, the social issues which had been ‘abandoned’ by the traditional parties have rapidly been recycled by populists and nationalists who wasted no time in producing a compost rich in anger, ill-informed sentiments, social stigmas and hate.
Thus, the political void has slowly filled up with extremist ideologies and far-right sirens that lured voters away from the mainstream parties (who were neither listening nor paying attention to what the voters were actually saying, asking and finally demanding for too long) with their enchanting promises of taking back control of borders, of return to hardline law-and-order and loosening of gun laws, of making their country great again and the blaming of immigrants and specific religious faiths for the social ills of the society.
Austerity has created the perfect fertile compost for populism and nationalism to flourish. The compost’s main ingredients include a strategy called ‘degagism’ (‘kick-them-out’) and the highly-skilled use of the mighty social media, analytics and smart tech tools to share, spread and expand the message (and fake news) at the speed of light, compared to the mainstream parties’ traditional door-to-door, market flyers and street posters.
A self-styled ‘man (or woman) of the people’ can now easily launch a campaign against someone they deliberately call ‘candidate of the Establishment’ (or ‘candidate of the elites’, or ‘candidate of the finance’), or maybe even ‘candidate of the corruption’ in order to hurt their image (it resonates well with the public, whether corruption allegations are true or not) or why not launch a campaign against an entire political party altogether...
They can claim their fight is for the People's best interests, when in fact it has little to do with the People at all and everything to do with hidden sponsors, wealthy supporters and a country's “bourgeois populism” once described by French economic and social theorist Jacques Attali.
Their first objective is to turn the election into a massive ‘rejection referendum’, where populist slogans will claim that the election is an ‘anti-X’ vote or ‘the people against X’, and where there is little or no space for the traditional ‘my programme vs your programme’ during the campaign.
Their second objective is to win the voters’ hearts, not their minds. Use the voters’ feelings against their own interests (Leave voters happy for family members to lose their jobs as a price worth paying for Brexit). Make them vote an alleged corrupt political ‘class’ out and replace it with another – whose real agenda is hidden behind a large smokescreen of scandalous slogans that combine misogyny, racism, homophobia and hate. It sells newspapers, it makes a great audience on TV and on the radio.
And then, “win, win, win”.......
This article was first published in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com
(Cover: Dreamtime/Marcos Assis - Demonstration pro presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro on Paulista Avenue - young man wears a Bolsonaro president t-shirt. | 21 October 2018.)