Populism; Causes and repercussions

1)    Abraham’s Lincoln’s quote
2)    Why do populist leaders succeed?
3)    Definition of Populism and Populist leaders?
4)    Reasons for the rise of populism  
i) Xenophobia ii)Migration iii) Lack of stakes in political system iv) Threat to the family system, culture and religion v) Racial and religious hatred vi) Failure of institutions vii) Rallying cry against globalism and elitism viii) Economic fears such as unemployment, lack of proper facilities etc. 
5)    Role of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
6)    Examples of Recent populist leaders
7)    Why liberals and other established quarters of governance are against it?
8)    An interesting case study of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
9)    Future of populism
10)    Food of thought for global leadership
11)    The rise of Fascism?
12)    Populist narrative 
13)    Conclusion.





While defending his stance in the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln once said,” Democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. Does this proposition hold water? If the answer is “yes” then why there are leaders who oppose the status quo and get people’s recognition? The recent rise of populism is one such an example. 


What does the term “populism” mean? According to most of the scholars, it is very hard to give any proper definition of the term but here it is tried to define it keeping in view the broad discussion on the topic. Populism is the type of political ideology that challenges the status-quo and wants to upheaval the current political system to make it more people-friendly. The leaders who advocate this ideology are called populist leaders.


Most of the liberal elite tries to paint populism with the same brush as rebellion or revolt against democracy but what causes its rise? Why are people attracted to populist leaders and populist slogans? The main reason behind the rise of populism is the economic fears of the people. People think that only a handful of families which are corrupt to the feet are exploiting the current political system of their own vested interests. Common people think that only a leader who speaks for them and who understands their problems can re-structure the system in their favor. This re-structuring can bring the much-awaited economic relief to the locals according to them. Populist leaders ride this anti-elite wave in the public to ascend political prominence.


Another major cause is the wave of mass immigration to the host country. Indigenous people justly or unjustly think that immigrants who are willing to work at lesser wages are exploiting the job opportunities available in the country and thus creating mass unemployment among locals. Another prominent reason is the popular belief of the threat to the religious and cultural ideals of the people. People think that the existing system is aiding and abetting the efforts to destroy the religious ideology and cultural fabric of the society such as the family system, the way of life etc. The recent rise of voices in populist circles against gay marriages especially in USA and Brazil is a testament to the above-mentioned fact. People supporting the populist leaders in both the countries think that they have been sidelined and the elite is on a rampage to destroy the social fabric and religious teachings.


Another reason is the cultivation of hatred in the minds of people towards people belonging to other races or cultures. You may notice the increase of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the west and is the direct result of populist politics. The populist leaders paint Jews and Muslims as “others” who are a threat to the western way of life. The popular examples of such leaders are Donald Trump in the USA, Marine Le Pen in France and Bosanardo in Brazil. These leaders speak widely against migration, the political elite, and corrupt practices and this tussle between the populist leaders and corrupt elite has lead to an ever-increasing media war and social polarization. The political elite is arguing that the populist leaders are spreading bigotry among public and are some kind of modern fascists whereas the populist leaders hit back at the elite by saying that the current system is a tool in their hands to get financial benefits and they don’t want to let it go.


Another factor which is to be kept in mind is that most of the political experts associate populism with extreme-right wing politics but is not necessarily the case. During American elections, we saw the rise of both far-right and far-left populism in the shape of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders respectively. Their recognition shows that people of all political thoughts are somewhat inclined towards populist politics.


It is not the first time that the world is witnessing a surge in populist politics but it is certainly more alarming in this digital age. What will be the future of populism is hard to predict but one thing is for sure that we will reactionary politics again and again if the downward trend continued for the lower classes and the common man. Global leadership must keep in mind the historical incidents caused by economic injustice. It is the need of the hour to focus on poor else will be used as a tool by leaders like Hitler etc.

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About Muhammad Asim

Muhammad Asim is a passionate blogger and the founder and editor of the Politicalaxis.com
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