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Populism is Taking Over More Than Just America

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Populism is Taking Over More Than Just America


Following the 2016 election, many political experts labeled Donald Trump as a populist leader, yet very few people use the term populism with a strong understanding of its meaning.

Populism is a political movement that focuses on dividing a country between the hard working, blue collar middle class with the corrupt elite. This concept of politics has been (no pun intended) very popular amongst world leaders as it draws in the core of a nation’s people.

While the majority of Americans associate populism to our current president, populism is taking over foreign politics, and its effects are quite controversial.

Traits of Populist Leaders

Leaders that are deemed populist create an illusion of a national crisis. When looking particularly at Donald Trump, he claims that Capitol Hill has become a swamp of corruption that needs to be drained. His slogan, “Make America Great Again”, is populism in itself. The mantra implies that the pre-Obama era was great and that the eight-year period in between Bush and Trump changed the status of the nation. Therefore Donald Trump is obligated to intervene in this apparent corruption and calls for American unity towards “draining the swamp”. Anti-elitist is not the only path taken by populist leaders.

In an interview with BBC, Columbia University professor Nadia Urbinati pointed out the versatility of populism. Whether it is anti-politics, anti-intellectualism, or anti-elite, populist leaders attack contemporary politics based on how it is excluding itself from the general population. In Brazil, populist candidates are going after the state of national politics after a string of payoffs and illegally-brokered deals from the previously impeached president. Rodrigo Duterte has recently criticized the progressive college students of his country, stating that they lack traditional values.

To name a few other tendencies, populist leaders tend to be casually worded, which is a way of connecting with their targeted demographic. They establish themselves as a voice of the people, allowing said leaders to accuse political opponents of being enemies of the people.

Examples of Populism


Jeremy Corbyn is a lead populist in the United Kingdom.

Although commonly associated with the right, populism is associated with groups across the political spectrum. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the best example of a leftist populist leader, as well as the Syriza Party in Greece and the Podemos of Spain. However, most successful current populist leaders are towards the strong right.

French and British politicians Marine Le Pen and Jeremy Corbyn are the European populist powers respectively, while the Five Star movement of Italy is one of the more popular European campaigns. Donald Trump is viewed as a hybrid of populist and authoritarian, however his campaign focused heavily on the ideas of populism (and some nativism as well to be frank). Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is Asia’s most prominent populist, and experts say he is easily the extreme of the movement internationally.

Why is Populism So Important?

Similarly to how populism took over the French elections in the recent years, Brazil is undergoing an intense political shift, with Brazil’s election shining a light on the rebirth of Latin American populism. Jair Bolsonaro, the far right candidate of the Brazil elections, advanced past the first round of elections, and was only a small percent away from initiating a runoff with the opposing left candidate Haddad. Political analysts claimed that Bolsonaro’s upset was incredibly unlikely, and his surge in the polls indicated that populism is likely to take over Brazilian politics in the coming years, especially in the wake of the previous president’s injustices.

Noah Giglietti is a lead contributor for The Daily Lead.


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