Generation Brexit

Is populism a threat to democracy?

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The EU referendum campaign was arguably a suspension of the normal proceedings of liberal democracy in the United Kingdom. Countless analyses have proclaimed the Brexit vote to be an expression of a majoritarian and anti-pluralist democratic process, hence a populist one. For others, the vote mobilised the highest percentage of votes in recent decades and was thus an undiluted expression of popular will. Furthermore, the vote can be seen to have given voice to the disenfranchised and the forgotten and as such may have restored the people’s trust in democracy.

Can we thus classify the Brexit vote as a populist development?

• Where the causes of the Brexit vote primarily economic, and/or political, and/or social?
• What ideology stood behind the Leave campaign, how was its message delivered?
• What precedent does the Brexit vote set for British liberal democracy and with what implications?

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Populism is simply a political tool. It isn't a threat to democracy - it's a style of communication between candidate and voter, representative and citizen. Empathising with the public through rhetoric is one of the key jobs of politicians while elections are taking place, and the setting up of an 'us vs. them' dichotomy is merely one way of connecting with voters. It is certainly not something that is unique to right-wingers. Those who supported the Remain campaign and Hillary Clinton are...

Thomas Mills
by Thomas Mills
5 Votes
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Thomas Mills

Looking to South America, we can see previously marginalized social groups being mobilized by populists. In Argentina, there is Desarrollismo in order to help that part of the population which has been hit hardest by the economic crises. The Kirchners, as a family coming from a politically unimportant region and making it to the Capitale, gave hope to the disenfranchised. Of course, populism also has its downsides, especially when turning extremist, but: Whatever the actual goal of the...

Martina Svibic
by Martina Svibic
8 Votes
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Martina Svibic

In the US, the UK, France, and just about every other Western democracy, there is a political party that promises what it cannot deliver — a time machine. The recent rise in populism is due to a gradual, and increasingly conspicuous, erosion of national sovereignty. The West can no longer sustain itself. What’s more, it hasn’t been able to for years. It has become heavily dependent on international commerce, foreign direct investment, and global capital markets. This, in turn, makes them...

Louis de Dumast
by Louis de Dumast
9 Votes
Comments 1
Louis de Dumast

To the populists, the "people" of the nation constitute a hypothetical and homogenous body that can be played off against actual election results (Muller, 2015). They have a tendency to invoke the "silent majority", justifying that they have considerable supporters who have just yet to speak up. This allows them to declare themselves as the legitimate presidents even if election did not go in their favour, as we see in Orban and Obrador, and perhaps even Trump if election results were...

Jiahui Wu
by Jiahui Wu
3 Votes
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Jiahui Wu

Populist movements fight over the meaning of representation in democracies. Because populist politicians present themselves as leaders above party pluralism, and because populist movements make claims in the name of the allegedly unanimous “will of the people,” they challenge and strain constitutional procedures for elections and representative government. Such strains can open the door to regime change in the direction of tyranny or dictatorship.

Joe164857
by Joe164857
3 Votes
Comments 1
Joe164857
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A moment of movie that one may never forget is the classic scene from Mean Girls, where a member of a girls group approached the table not wearing the colour pink that was decided by the group to which the group responded “You can’t sit with us.” For me this scene of a girls clique perfectly describes everything wrong with populism. The inherent weakness of populism is that it divides society into “us” versus “them”. Whether it is the “ordinary people” vs “the elite” or the “pure citizens”...

Jessica Lattouf
by Jessica Lattouf
13 Votes
Comments 8
Jessica Lattouf

According to Bonikowski (2016), populism is based on a rudimentary moral logic that has few direct policy implications and does not provide a general understanding of society of politics, unlike ideologies such as liberalism or conservatism with clear policy goals, namely the desirability of state intervention in social and economic affairs.  Populism simply offers a simplistic critique of existing configurations of power; the vilification of elites and glorification of the people...

Limichi Okamoto
by Limichi Okamoto
4 Votes
Comments 0
Limichi Okamoto
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