Populism and Democracy in the Age of Donald Trump

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Populism is on the rise - again. Is it the antithesis of democracy - or actually its foundation? From Hiter to Trump, from authoritarianism to anarchism, from the Renaissance to the present - populist movements and populist leaders explored and analyzed.
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  Populism: An interview granted to Andrea Soler Nuñez (Catalonia, Spain) About “populism”, its deinitions and variants   !  Describe populism in four or five lines, if possible, focusing on the main traits shared for all populists. Are there any split groups, any division besides of the classic left-right classification? A  Populism is the appeal to and elevation of an imaginary “common man” and his values, rights, and identity above equally imaginary “elites” and minorities their disparate, often contradictory, alleged interests. t is a form of “shared psychotic disorder” replete !ith cult-li e elements, including an infallible and iconoclastic visionary leader.  #  #hile listing the populist movements around the globe, it is interesting $ as some authors have !ritten $ the right-left division that follo!s geographical frontiers. #hile in %atin and  &orth America predominates a left-!ing populism, in most of 'urope the right-!ing  populism is stronger. #hy is it that a particular sort of populism permeates the people depending on the country? #hat are the circumstances that ma e a difference? A  (istorical bac ground. )he right has al!ays been the favoured political option in 'urope o!ing mainly to geography *insurmountable natural obstacles+ and economic scarcity. )he  past  years since #orld #ar  are an aberration. imilarly, the left al!ays had a popular appeal in %atin America o!ing to a long period of resistance to colonial occupiers and rapacious local elites. )hese are the default options. /. Putting together different populisms, it is found that politics in the 0A rely more on the main figure $ something that happens in %atin America, too $ giving the leader a great role, !hile in 'urope, people tend to vote for the party, !ithout paying attention to the leader that much. Are these other possible split groups $ depending on the leader1s influence? A  )here is no populism !ithout a leader figure. )he leader is essential as the messianic focusof grievances, hopes, and revolt against the establishment. $  )he terms “populism”2”populist” has been used to label lots of different movements, but lately it is also being used as an attac , or even as an insult, to opposing parties. 3oreover, apart from the Populist Party and the narodni $ curiously, both on the left $ any party refers to itself as “populist”. #hy is it that “populism” has acquired a negative connotation? And, is there any misconception about it $ as it is used as a pe4orative term? A  )he elites are still setting the bon ton via their control of academe, the media, the political establishment and other centres of po!er. )he use of “populist” and “populism” as a  pe4orative is their successful attempt to label their opponents out of the legitimate political discourse. Populism replaced the previously !idely circulated term demagogy. %  )hroughout the 0 history - and also other countries1 - populism started as left-!ing movements that claimed for !or ers1 rights, but in the 55 century - although there still !ere left movements - it seemed to evolve to the right-!ing spectrum. 6an previous historic cases  predict if there1s a general trend to the right?  A  )his statement is utterly !rong. )here !ere al!ays populist movements on the right. Actually, right !ing populist movements are the historical rule. %eft-!ing movements are relatively ne! in historical terms7 they started in the second half of the 89 th  century. 3any  populist movements in history cannot be classified as either left or right !ing at all. About t&e ormation o “'&e People”     'rnesto %aclau sentenced that people 4oin together forming the mass not before, but after the speech. According to him, 4ust a speech that goes against something *articulation a series of various demands+ !ill unite people, causing these mass movements !e call populism. Do you agree !ith that? 6an a :positive call: provo e such a big public reaction? A  %aclau regards populism as a critical and !elcome component of democracy. Admittedly, in the contemporary !orld, populists are more li ely to form a cohesive group identity by opposition to something or someone.   55 and 55 century theorists !ho !or ed on 3ass ;ehavior and <roup Psychology gave identification, imitation and suggestion *among others+ a great role in the creation of  boundaries bet!een the leader and the follo!ers, and amongst the follo!ers themselves. s it important, regarding the construction of “the people”, the presence of these three terms? Are they enough to create something so potent as “the people” or does it ta e something else? *  3any more elements are required7 suspension of disbelief *Adorno+, anonymity, arousal, attention deficit *required for deindividuation+, shared values and beliefs *required for convergence+, normative behavior and actions promulgated by leaders *emergent norms+, andsocial identity. About addressing “'&e People” and t&e spee+&   *  #hat does the political speech have to contain to be labelled as “populist”? s it vital that the deliverer of the speech uses the “us2them” terms? Are there any other, subtler !ays to appeal to the people in order to “construct the mass”? A  =ostering !eness via antagonism is only one element. )he leader must provide a set of norms and values> a plan of action> a unifying historical narrative> and other elements of collective identity construction and formation.   6omparing both the Donald )rump and ;ernie anders campaigns, or %e Pen1s, the similarities come to light. )hey1re not in the speech content, but in the !ay they do it, in the gestures, in the tone of voice. s it an essential common trait of all populists - both on the left and the right, in the 0A and =rance, the !ay they address “the people”? A   am not sure this statement is based on any rigorous research. t is a mere generaliation. Anecdotally,  see little in common bet!een %e Pen and anders, for e@ample+ or bama and )rump+. !-  6harisma is proved to be an important quality for leadership, and so happens to political  populist figures. t is common that charismatic leaders pronounce different discourses, usually more personal, emotional. )his might be a reason !hy some people lin “populist  speech” !ith “demagoguery”. s it possible to deliver a populist speech !ithout helping yourself !ith “moving”, “touching” rhetoric $ even cheat *not strictly political+ $ resources? A  Populist speech appeals to emotions $ both positive and negative - as !ell as to cognitive  biases. t is, therefore, not possible to effectively mobilie, energie, and motivate the masses *“mobs”, “cro!ds”+ !ith unemotional speech. !!  Another thing 1ve found that populist leaders share $ !ith Donald )rump as a great e@ample $ is that they are either really loved or really hated> and that they barely defend policies in the center of the political spectrum. Do you agree !ith that? f so, !hy does this happen? A  Populist leaders polarie society by inserting !edges bet!een various socio-economic strata of the population and bet!een the ma4ority and the minorities. nevitably, they are hated and loved passionately by various groups. Populists can $ and often are $ centrist. )he  belief that populists are either far right or far left is counterfactual. !#  A study by ;oni o!s i and <idron about the populist content of American potential  presidents1 speeches sho!ed the importance of the situational conte@t in choosing to use either populist or not-populist “vocabulary” *it turned out that some politicians delivered  populist discourses depending on the state, the pro@imity to the election day+. n your opinion, !hat role plays the conte@t in !hich is given the discourse? s there the possibility that the same politician comes to contradict him2herself? A   tend to doubt this assertion. )ruly populist leaders $ li e Adolf (itler or Donald )rump $ are unli ely to be s!ayed by location, audience, and circumstances *“conte@t”+. )hey rarely alter their style of communication or message. n fact, it is this contumacious defiance that is an integral part of their appeal and brand differentiation. About its su++ess   !.  #hat do you thin is the main reason !hy populists li e Donald )rump or 3arine %e Penhave such an enormous support *even though they have lots of detractors+? Does tiredness *or even boredom of ordinary politics+ have something to do !ith their success? !$  Donald )rump has been called “demagogue” and “narcissist” several times, but the thing is, according to numerous scholars, )rump fully-fills perfectly each one of the given points of the definitions7 scapegoating, lying, insulting, fear mongering, etc. (o! is it that !ith everything on the table $ already in the first !ee s of primary campaign $ he !on lots of  people1s confidence? !%  ome studies lin the agreeableness and openness !ith political ideology, even some say the agreeableness is a predictor of voting for populist parties. Begarding to the electorate !hovoted for any populist party2leader, !hich is usually diverse, !hat do you thin are the  psychological traits they have in common? A  )rumpCs supporters and fans are frustrated. n 89/9, a team of psychologists, led by ohn Dollard, hypothesied that frustration al!ays leads to aggression. %egitimate grievances against a dysfunctional, corrupt, and compromised polity, a deceptive ethos, an American  Dream turned nightmare, a bro en system that no longer !or s for the over!helming ma4ority and appears to be unfi@able lead )rumpCs base to feel that they had been betrayed, abandoned, duped, e@ploited, abused, ignored, disenfranchised, and trampled upon. )hey are in the throes of dislocation, disorientation, and trauma. )heir declining fortunes and obsolete s ills render them insignificant and irrelevant, and their lives meaningless. t is hopelessness coupled !ith impotent helplessness. )rumpCs adulators see to bypass the system and even to dismantle it altogether $ not to reform it. )his is the stuff revolutions are made of and the pronouncements of )rumpCs cohorts are inadvertently copy-pasted from the te@ts of the =rench Bevolution, )he ctober Bevolution *!hich led to ;olshevism+, and even the &ai Bevolution. uch conditions often give rise to cults, centered around a narcissistic or psychopathic leader- figurehead. n )rumpCs case, the abyss bet!een his lifeCs circumstances and his follo!ersCs is unbridgeable and yet, they hope that by associating !ith him, ho!ever remotely, some of his glamour and magical, fairytale success !ill rub off on them. Eoting for )rump is li e !inningthe lottery, becoming a part of a 4uggernaut and of history. t is an into@icating sensation of empo!erment that )rump encourages by telling his voters that they are no longer “average”, they are no!, by virtue of follo!ing him, “great” and “special”, even if only by pro@y. )rump idealies his voters and they return the favor. n their eyes, he is the 6leanser of the ;elt!ayCs Augean tables. (e, singlehandedly, “in 8 minutes”, !ill destroy the ancient regime, the old order *of !hich he had been a part since age F8+, settle scores, “Dirty (arry” style, and, thus, ma e their day. t is a nihilistic mindset. ome of his follo!ers gleefully contemplate the suspension of the 6onstitution and its elaborate chec and balances. thers compare him to the first Boman 'mperors. )hey !ish to unburden themselves by transferringtheir decision-ma ing and responsibilities onto )he 6hosen ne. )o his acolytes $ and contrary to much evidence $ )rump is a “doer”, !ith a long list of *mostly illusory+ accomplishments. (e is best equipped to get things done and to prioritie. n#ashington, !here appearances matter far more than substance, no one is better credentialed that )he Donald, they smir . )hese champions of small government and 6onservatism loo to )rump-!hen-President *in other !ords7 to the tateG+ to generate 4obs, to insulate them from the outside !orld, to protect them from illegal aliens and terrorists *surely one and the same+, and, in general, to nanny and cosset them all the !ay to the ban . )he !orld is a hostile, psychopathic place and !ho best to deal !ith it than an even more hostile, narcissisticleader li e )rump? #e need a bad, big !olf to navigate through the 4ungle out there. )his is aform of collective regression to toddlerhood !ith )rump in the role of the omnipotent, omniscient =ather. n abnormal psychology this is called “shared psychosis”. )he members of the cult deploy a host of primitive *infantile+ psychological defense mechanisms as they gradually d!indle intomere e@tensions and reflections of their s ipper. )heirs is a malignant optimism, grounded not in reality, but in idealiation7 the tendency to interact not !ith )rump himself, but !ith animaginary “)rump” that each fan tailors to suit his or her fears, hopes, !ishes, and fervent fantasies. )hen there is denial7 a pathological response, the repression of inconvenient truths about )rump and their relegation to the unconscious !ere they fester into something called “dissonance”. Dissonance breeds rage and violence and these oft accompany nihilistic and
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