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December 10, 2016 / Congau

They Are All Populists

”Populism” is a loaded word and it is a rather strange one. It is used to express disapproval of certain forms of political activity, but unlike other such negative terms its basic reference would seem quite positive. It is of course derived from “populus” > “people” and initially one would probably think that there can be nothing wrong about seeking the support of the people. After all, that is the essential idea of democracy which also the anti-populists subscribe to.

Elections are all about trying to seduce the public into supporting one’s own party and candidate and mainstream contenders are certainly in on this game. No one restricts themselves to feeding the voters with serious arguments only. The manipulating game of simple slogans, winning looks, mudslinging and balloons is an integrated part of the most normal election campaign, and one might be excused to think that that itself is populism.

To say and do whatever is popular in order to gain votes is certainly not a characteristic that is only reserved for those who are labeled populists. Could it be that the so-called populists are simply better at that game they are all engaging in? It is a little hypocritical to denounce populism when the whole system is involved in similar activities.

The critics do have a point, though. Vulgar demagoguery, lies, simplified worldviews and self-centeredness are certainly evils that haunt the contemporary political debate. But although the so-called populists are the worst offenders, it is prevalent throughout and is even encouraged by the system.

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