Across Europe, moderate politicians are anxious about the vitality of their democracies, the sturdiness of their institutions, the civility and harmony of their societies. The threat they see is a deepening political polarisation, documented in a series in the Guardian, which began this week. Once the choice offered to an electorate was simply between the centre-right and centre-left. Now they are being offered choices on the right and left too. This represents a shift, especially for western democracies, which got used to centrist politics. In the last few decades the axis of politics has shifted rightwards, so that the centre is now situated where once the right had been. Hence the arrival of “populism” as a political force grounded in the notion of the centre versus these opposite extremes.
This is a global phenomenon. When Jair Bolsonaro is inaugurated as Brazil’s president in January, five of the world’s seven largest democracies will have populists at the helm. They include India, the Philippines, Mexico and the US, which elected – in Donald Trump – a president some believe to be the first populist president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died in 1945. Populism, clearly, is not new, and the current spike should not be overstated. In much of the western world, the established political order remains more or less intact. But clearly a dramatic realignment is under way. In the coming months the Guardian will be exploring what the political theorist Chantal Mouffe has labelled “the populist moment”. In Europe, populism is often conflated with nativism and far-right politics, but is rarely used to describe parties or leaders on the left. The reverse is true in Latin America, where populism has historically been associated with the politics of the left.
Donald Trump | The Guardian
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