From Populism to Flip-Flop To Just Flop

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A story we have witnessed too many times. The formula is really simple. Get to know what the majority is saying and repeat it before an audience. The audience will start to validate their point of view because there’s someone publicly talking about it. Eventually, this symbiosis culminates in mutual deception, like Trump who “loves Wikileaks” and now is “OK” with the prosecution of their leaders.

I have a saying: “the politicians our societies need cannot survive politics.”

I don’t adhere to absolute statements, but in general this has proven to be the case over and over again. The world of politics is full of conspiracies, backstabbing and power games that leave no space for soft-hearted altruists.

Elections are an excellent social experiment to prove this thesis. People tend to believe in a better world and optimism is an essential part of the electoral process in western democracies. If candidates say their focus will be to increase jobs opportunities, we don’t analyze the mechanism they will use or how they will be sustained in time. We just applaud they say so.

Make no mistake: politicians of all parties, from all corners of the world, with different ideologies, they all act as populists in campaign. You will never hear something like “I can’t guarantee that jobs will increase” or “sadly, education has to raise its costs.” They will promote their ideal world and then face reality with a straight face. Obama’s campaign promises fulfilled as a president reached a mere 48 percent, François Hollande in France has reached a 38 percent. The difference is just 10 points, but the US ex-president left office with an approval of 59 percent, whereas his France counterpart did not even go for re-election due to his once-reported 4 percent of approval ratings (the linked article makes fun of the fact that Vladimir Putin is more popular in France than their own president).

Whatever the case Let me ask you something, would you trust a person that only keeps less than half of their promises? Probably not. But here we are, believing the über-politician is one vote away.

Donald Trump shouted a slogan while in campaign that said “I will drain the swamp,” meaning he, as a president, would fight to end the inner corruption of the political system in Washington D.C., founding his credibility in the fact of him not being a politician. He confronted the likes of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as corrupted political operators. He praised WikiLeaks for “helping” him in this crusade saying “I love WikiLeaks.” Now, almost in his 100 first days, Trump joined “the swamp” in a series of questionable exterior policy actions, diminished transparency of government, and said about Wikileaks being prosecuted by the DOJ –a move that followers and detractors of Julian Assange’s organization deem as a bad omen for the 1st Amendment– that “it’s OK with me.”

 In Europe, the “populism” is strongly tied to “nationalism” by media. As a continent that has worked for decades to consolidate the transnational government with the European Union, the establishment doesn’t look with good eyes the emergence of a contrary sentiment that, allegedly, was behind Brexit and came close in last elections in Netherlands, where Geert Wilders’ Party Of Freedom nevertheless got second majority of representatives.

With elections coming this year in France (president), UK (prime minister), Germany (chancellor), Norway (parliament) and Denmark (parliament), for sure the media is gonna pick the “populist” candidates for the occasion. But do know that, whatever the party or the ideology or the candidate, politics got them to the elections and probably more than half of promises are gonna be just that. And if we hear a lot of EU “exits” it’s not because of populists, it’s because that’s what resonating in the public opinion and that’s what should be making the covers.