New Populism (II)

New Populism (II)

Written by Alfonso Elizondo


Over the last 20 years, the number of states presided over by leaders considered to be populist grew from 7 to 14, and the number of people governed by these leaders grew from 120 million to 2 billion.

The world has changed a great deal, due not only to social networks, but to all media, which is why potential leaders compete for the attention and approval of ‘the people ’. For this very reason, the voices have become louder, more extreme and vulgar because this is how they attract popular attention, according to Howard Erlich, professor at the School of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College in New York.

Populists define the people, the elite and the popular will in different ways, depending on their cultural and linguistic traditions, their ideologies and their specific politics.

According to Kramer, the people can be defined as the 99%, the Indignados, the natives, the ‘true’ Germans, Americans or Muslims, the common people, the working class, rural folk or the indigenous people.

These groups are characterized as decent, honest, productive, reasonable and pure. On the other hand, the elite are the oligarchy, the Eureaucrats, American imperialists, billionaires who are portrayed as dishonest, selfish, corrupt, evil and manipulative.

Of the 27 leaders who are currently in power and whose discourse was included in the study published by The Guardian, only three can be classified as ‘very populist’: Maduro, Evo Morales and Erdogan, two from the left and Erdogan from the nationalist hard-right.

Of the two populists there is one of each type: the Italian Giuseppe Conte, from the right, and Andrés López Obrador, from the Mexican left. Among the eight that would be ‘somewhat populist’ only Ortega from Nicaragua uses a leftist discourse, while the remaining seven are closer to the far right, namely, Víktor Orbán (Hungary), Donald Trump (USA), Narendona Modi (India) , Bolsonaro (Brazil), Juan O. Hernández (Honduras), Putin (Russia) and Theresa May (United Kingdom).

In the study conducted on all politicians, including those who demitted office, it was found that those on the left are more populist than those on the right, with an index of 0.4 and 0.3 respectively.

Elena Block, professor of Political Communication at the University of Queensland, Australia, says that when you want to talk about extremes of populism, you have to talk about Hugo Chavez and Donald Trump, who in one way or another are among the most famous populists.