In the past few weeks, much discussion of populism has been in the news. Populists, those candidates with the most popular ideas of the time, are winning elections in America and in Europe.
Isn’t that democracy at its best, you ask? The answer is sometimes, yes, and sometimes, no.
Historically, a populist is one who represents the common man, often working class, over elites (college educated, wealthy, and long-time government insiders).
Populist issues change over time. They easily sway from left to right and do not necessarily represent a party’s ideals. E.g., Mr. Trump wants a massive amount of infrastructure spending, a typically liberal issue. Whether Mr. Trump is successful depends on many factors, including convincing the GOP-controlled congress to fund his ideas.
What’s popular today may not be during the next election and may cause candidates to lose their seats when trials prove them wrong. For example, many right wing tea-partiers are gone. These are the politicians that shut down the government and halted government spending during the great recession, the worst economic period since the great depression of the 1930s. It is widely known among the educated in economics that if consumers cannot spend, the government must spend to support the economy and boost it out of a recession. Somehow reducing government deficits became popular at the time, instead of getting the US out of a recession.
Is Brexit really a good idea, or did it win because those who voted for it heard something that may or may not be true and did not really understand the consequences?
With all populist ideas, time will tell which choices are right in the end.