In recent months, the ascent of leaders and movements denounced by their rivals as “populist” has given the world the false impression that those leaders offer some kind of distinct ideology.

So-called populists do run on platforms that challenge the status quo; it is also true that this can lead them to embrace a wide range of positions on crucial issues. The policies promised by Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen cannot be more different than those adopted by Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, or those promoted by Podemos, Spain’s newest political party. Yet all of these leaders are routinely described as populists.

The fact is that populism is not an ideology. Instead, it’s a strategy to obtain and retain power. It has been around for centuries, recently appearing to resurface in full force, propelled by the digital revolution, precarious economies, and the threatening insecurity of what lies ahead.

Even though populist leaders and the countries they rule are vastly different, populism contains the same ingredients everywhere. We can see them in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines. And despite differences in culture, history, political systems, or the economic circumstances of the countries where populism is now being deployed, populist leaders resort to the same tactics. The policies they favor are as varied as their political tactics are similar.

Divide and conquer

The most successful populist leaders are masters at exacerbating socio-cultural division and conflict. They use differences in income, race, religion, region, nationality, or any other rift in society to drive a wedge between different groups and foment indignation and political outrage. Populists are not afraid to fuel social conflict—in fact, they thrive on it. An indispensable ingredient of the populist recipe is the “us” that embodies the nation, represented by …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Global

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