Populism- it’s a blend of disdain at the political elite and a desire for sweeping change. And, in 2016, it has changed the world that we live in.
2016 has seen Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn maintain his cult-like status and the election of Donald Trump to the White House. Moreover, 2016 has seen Bulgaria elect a socialist president and the rise of the far-right leaning Marie Le Pen in France.
What links all of these political events is anger; anger at immigration, anger at the elite taking advantage of the financial system and a discernible anger at the 2008 financial crisis, caused by what they perceive to the be elites. For these people, enough was enough.
2016 was the year that the people wanted to give the establishment a kicking: “We have to acknowledge that in many respects the world is not in good shape,” said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a speech at Chatham House last night.
“We have the cult of the strongman, we have democracy in retreat,”continued the Foreign Secretary.
In the EU Referendum, all 3 of the traditional major parties; the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats campaigned to stay in the EU. The SNP, Scotland’s major party, wanted to stay in too.
That is what the elite wanted, but the elite seemed to lack a plan on how to deal with immigration, which became one of the biggest issues of the referendum campaign. The idea of change galvanised over half of the nation to vote leave.
It was a similar story in America in November. Barack Obama is seen as a messiah-esq figure in Britain, but so many Americans were fed up with him. With Obama’s two-term limit up, someone new has to take to the Oval Office in January. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was the overwhelming favourite to defeat the Republican Donald Trump, a man with absolutely no political experience whatsoever. Hillary Clinton was the safe option for the top job in global politics. But she was seen as the personification of the elite. A Washington veteran who would bring more of the same.
Whilst the election of Donald Trump to the presidency is arguably the biggest gamble in political history, he is perceived by Americans to be more likely to enact change; to make the lives of ordinary Americans better. Under Obama, the American dream died. Industry stalled in powerhouses such as Michigan, which swung from Democrat clutches in 2012 to Trump’s in 2016. There, Trump is seen as someone who can kick-start their stuttering economy, to ‘Make America Great Again’, to quote the man himself.
2017 will test whether Populism is truly spreading around the globe, with the French General Election set to be close between Le Pen and François Fillon.
All the world can do now is sit back and witness the madness that eschews as the world continues to change before our very eyes.