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The Growing Economic Disparity Between The ‘Elite’ and The Masses

The rise of populism around the world is of interest because it presents a few concerning aspects. Cas Mudde highlights that populist leaders usually carry one or all of the following traits: anti-establishment, authoritarianism, and nativism.

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This was the beginning of the growing economic disparity between the 'elite' and the masses. Among other things, it has resulted in a significant growth in inequality across the modern society. Pixabay

The political discourse across the world is increasingly becoming dominated by the phenomenon of populism. The term has become so commonplace that it usually appears in popular media without an explanation as to who qualifies to be a populist. However, revisiting the idea can be instructive at this point.

The definition for the term, which now forms the backbone of academic studies, was provided by young Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde in 2004. He suggested that the concept is a political ideology that considers society to be segregated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups: “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite” – and that politics should be an expression of the general will of the people.

The first major sign of the global shift towards populism was the election of Donald Trump as the US President. Populists have been successful in other countries as well. Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Recep Tayyib Erdogan in Turkey, Victor Orban in Hungary and the Finns Party in Finland are evidence of the expanding global footprint of populism. Such trends point towards a larger shift in attitudes of citizens around the globe that are rapidly changing the face of democracy.

The rise of populism around the world is of interest because it presents a few concerning aspects. Cas Mudde highlights that populist leaders usually carry one or all of the following traits: anti-establishment, authoritarianism, and nativism.

Donald Trump
The first major sign of the global shift towards populism was the election of Donald Trump as the US President. Pixabay

Since the idea is about the virtue of the ordinary people against a corrupt establishment, populist leaders display resentment for existing authorities. The aversion of populist leaders to institutional restraint can also extend to the economy, where exercising complete control in the interest of the people implies that autonomous regulatory agencies should place no obstacles in their way. Alongside, they also exude authoritarian leanings as they believe to be representing the interest of the masses. Finally, the narrative set by populist leaders taps into the feeling of nationalism among the citizens, which can develop into xenophobic tones like in Trump’s America or Nigel Farage’s Britain.

A combination of these three traits undermine and weaken the idea of democracy by making its institutions ineffective, concentrating power around a few individuals and polarising the people.

It must also be noted that populism is not necessarily a movement of the right. Quite a few populist parties around the world favour economic left-wing policies. In fact, one of the most populist leaders in recent times, Hugo Chavez, rallied Venezuela against the ‘predatory’ political elite and the US as a whole while attempting a socialist revolution in the country. Even Trump, for that matter, presents instances of socialistic tendencies in his advocacy of trade barriers and opposition to global trade deals. Thus, it is not necessarily a particular ideology that is driving the rise in populism. The root causes lie elsewhere.

The reasons can be traced to the structural changes experienced in earlier decades. First, the technological revolution which took shape in the 1980s has since disproportionately benefited highly skilled workers while the rest of the workforce, especially in the developed world, saw their incomes stagnate or decline. This was the beginning of the growing economic disparity between the ‘elite’ and the masses. Among other things, it has resulted in a significant growth in inequality across the modern society.

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This was the beginning of the growing economic disparity between the ‘elite’ and the masses. Among other things, it has resulted in a significant growth in inequality across the modern society. Pixabay

Second, globalisation, which accelerated in the 1990s also created clear winners and losers in both developed and emerging markets. As per the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem, trade benefits individuals who own factors with which the national economy is relatively well-endowed and hurts individuals who own factors that are relatively scarce. Hence, in the most developed nations that were capital-rich, unskilled workers were left holding the shorter end of the stick. These segments of population have been the strongest supporters of populist leaders who promise to close the borders and return their jobs to them.

Finally, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the 2008 financial crisis. It was a crisis that the working class saw as being a creation of the ‘elite’: the rich bankers and stock brokers. To make matters worse, the state bailed out the instigators of the crisis while the rest were left to deal with the consequences of austerity and joblessness. They have, thus, connected with populist leaders who have seemed to be the only ones speaking their language.

Also Read: Global Trends In Money Management: Guide To Increase The Efficiency Of Capital Usage

Therefore, rising disparity in terms of income and opportunities has led the rise of populism around the world. The populist movement is an outcry from communities that have been short-changed in the process of technological progress and globalisation; from those who have seen growth all around them but not for themselves.

Every industrial or technological revolution in the past has been disruptive and has required social and economic adaption. The 21st century needs a commensurate adjustment. (IANS)

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White House Condemns Any Link of President Donald Trump to Accused New Zealand Shooter

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying "both sides" were to blame and that there were "fine people" on both sides of the protest.

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In this Jan. 2, 2019, file photo White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington. VOA

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Donald Trump
The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists. VOA

Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but did not support his policies.

The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” He said he had not seen the manifesto.

Mulvaney said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” he said.

Donald Trump
“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.” VOA
Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be” and the key to his prison cell thrown away.

Also Read: Did You Know? IOM States Latin America as World’s Deadliest Route for Migrants

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.” (VOA)