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How Populism is Changing the Complexion of the Western World

Robert Dimuro

Posted on September 2, 2018 16:35

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From Brexit to the election of Trump, nationalism, patriotism, and self-determination are on the rise.

In the United States and Europe, the rise of populism is a phenomenon that threatens to change the political, economic, and social fabric of the Western World. The United States and Great Britain have led the charge with the election of Trump and the narrowly won vote by the secessionists in favor of "Brexit."

Both results were considered to be massive upsets - enabled in part by complacent citizens who failed to take the opposition seriously and thus failed to vote in these elections.

As a result, populism is now regarded as a serious political movement, even in the most liberal European nations. The populists in Italy recently won a popular mandate to govern, marking another setback for the European Union and the stability of the Euro.

Just last week, Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met in Milan to discuss strategies to transform the EU from within. They aim to defeat the entrenched pro-immigration, pan-European party in 2019 to reverse the EU's open-door policy with respect to migration, empowering EU nations to finally secure their borders.

Just as in Italy and Hungary, the refugee crisis is the linchpin for populist movements all across Europe. Conservative Muslims from the Middle East and liberal secularists in Europe have proven not to mix very well; however, EU nations lack the authority, ability, and sometimes willingness to close their borders to check the influx of migrants.

Norway has attempted to fix this problem by implementing a mandatory education program for asylum seekers that focuses on Western culture and values, specifically regarding attitudes towards women. Not surprisingly, this initiative has done little to change the hearts and minds of the migrant population, as the cultural divide is too large to be bridged in one generation.

As such, culture and identity, not economics, are the main drivers of European populist movements. This was borne out in the 2014 Chapel Hill Expert Survey that analyzed the platforms of over 250 European political parties. Of the parties that are classified as populist, they all share common positions on immigration, assimilation, law enforcement, and nationalism. However, their positions vary on economic ideology, government intervention in the economy, and corruption.

The nature of populism in the United States is very similar. Two populist presidential candidates emerged in Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders who campaigned as outsiders against the status quo.

Although Sanders outperformed expectations in the primaries, he failed to defeat Clinton partly because he was just an economic populist focused on income inequality and the power of corporations. Sanders didn’t address the concerns of immigration, border security, political correctness, and identity politics. Conversely, Trump made each of these issues hallmarks of his campaign, which were vital to his being elected President in 2016.

In retrospect, the rise of populism in the Western World was very predictable. As the world has become increasingly interconnected through globalization, technology, and exchange of peoples, the revival of nationalism, patriotism, and cultural identity were inevitable.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on September 2, 2018 16:35

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Source: NYT
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Some 48 hours after the European Union reached a refugee deal with Turkey, Greek officials confronted widespread confusion...

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