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Populism is on the rise! The rise of Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, the upcoming Italian referendum, and the forthcoming German elections all have a hand in populism and its role in shaping the world today – what a time to be alive. Populism is typically associated with negatives – ask most students here what they think of Trump/Brexit/Le Pen and you’ll undoubtedly get a negative response, with varying responses from cries of Fascism, to the claim that Brexit was won by racists, to all the people who voted for Trump are idiots.
This line of thinking, while pleasing and comforting to liberals and centrists alike does absolutely nothing to actually address the root causes of why this political ideology is on the rise. It’s all very nice and plays to liberal superiority complexes to point the finger and say the people who voted for this person/this way are sexist/racist/homophobic/bigots/uneducated, but doing this fails to address why people are voting in these ways, and only increases the divide between groups that’s all too much felt in contemporary politics. To understand why, and to combat populist movements, liberals need to tone down the superiority complex and start examining these issues from the point of view of those who are voting for them.
It’s a dangerous assumption to dumb down the opinions and voting mannerisms of people who vote differently to you – doing that only furthers stereotypes and disenfranchises the myriad of people who are not sexist/racist/homophobic and furthers their feelings of disenfranchisement and being ignored by contemporary politics. Liberal’s mistake was assuming that everyone thinks the same way and has the same priorities as them, and refusing to acknowledge or even consider the opposing point of view.
Could Trump’s presidency have been avoided if Liberal media stopped treating him and his voters as a joke? Could reaching out and engaging with pro-Brexit voters and having a discussion with them about the far reaching consequences of this vote swayed the outcome? Liberals need to have a serious sit down and internal examination about their role in the rise of populism, and a serious change in tactics because this shaming of anyone remotely populist or conservative is only contributing to the disenfranchisement that’s leading the way to a populist right wing world we all might be living in soon.