The Populism Movement and Where it’s Heading

Sean Browne, Editor in Chief

One of the biggest trends in politics recently has been populism and this political ideology has fueled the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and has put President Donald Trump into the White House.

Populism, by definition, is an idea that the working class majority should control the government and not the political establishment.

While this theory may sound ideal, Pace Political Science Professor George Picoulas believes that populism is an idea that has some faults.

“It’s the native feeling that you are not doing well and it’s not your fault, it’s the fault of others like enemies within, foreigners, and bad deals,” Picoulas said. “It’s an easy recipe, it sounds very easy and simple to those who are uninformed.

Picoulas believes that the simplistic message that populism has to offer makes it so attractive to the public.

“It is centered around a simple message that uninformed people can follow,” Picoulas said. “I would maintain that people are uninformed. The main Google search after Brexit was what is the European Union.”

One of the simplistic messages that Picoulas is referring to is health care, a topic that Trump promised to be a quick and easy fix during the campaign.

“Trump said he had a ‘terrific plan and that everyone was going to be covered,’ okay that sounds very good,” Picoulas said. “But the more information I have the more I want to learn about the plan, and as it turns out Trump just said, ‘no one knew healthcare would be so hard.'”

Another issue that latched on to populism is terrorism. Picoulas believes that populist politicians have used terrorism to exploit people’s fears just to get them elected.

“When the Republican Primary was going on in South Carolina last year the number one issue was ISIS and I’m thinking the odds of ISIS getting you is next to nothing. You are more likely to get hit by a car, it’s important but it should not be your No. one issue,” Picoulas said. “Someone is telling you that this is what we need to do because we need to defeat them, if something goes wrong it’s because we are fighting a constant war it’s an element from any totalitarianism regime, it’s a page from George Orwell’s 1984.

Picoulas points to Trumps proposed budget as an example of this because he plans to expand military spending by $54,000,000,000.

But while populism was successful in 2016, it got off to a poor start this year with the most recent failure in the Dutch election a couple of weeks ago.

Geert Wilders campaigned on banning Muslim immigrants from entering the Netherlands, as well as leaving the European Union,

But with the victory for centrist candidate Mark Rutte, populism was dealt a blow that Picoulas believes to be the start of a new trend.

“I think that the world took notice after Brexit and our election that populism may not be the right choice,” Picoulas said. “Populism is good for saying things, but you have to deliver. That is what Trump is now noticing, you can use simple slogans to gain power but once you get there you have to govern.”

Later this year, Europe will have two elections with a populist candidate running for office with the French election occurring in April and May, and the German election occurring in September.