We still need time for the dust to settle before the outcome of the fight between populism and its opponents becomes apparent.
The tsunami of populism appears to have ebbed after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, but there is still a long road ahead. The unseating of established political forces came fast and lasted a long time.
I recently listened to an excellent American thinker explaining what populism is and how it can be overcome. He was right in saying that it’s not enough for it to be defeated electorally.
It’s imperative that the fight be won with reason, to convince the public that there truly is another way.
The power of populism is based on three myths:
-The myth of the people as victims. This has held since the first moments of the Greek crisis.
-The myth of the “enemies of the masses.” And there were convenient enemies right from the early days of the crisis as well, both foreign and domestic.
-The myth of the leader taking on the powerful as if they were some kind of monster to blame for the plight of the people. Alexis Tsipras responded to this sentiment by using them as scapegoats and it’s amazing that to this day you hear the phrase “He’s trying but he’s faced with beasts.”
Populism is based on blaming the “other” for all the suffering a beleaguered society is experiencing. We Greeks have this entrenched in our DNA. We remember and always want to believe that we’re the ones being attacked but then we easily forget who’s helped us.
For the fight to be won, three things are needed: Someone who can be the face of anti-populism who can convince people that they are not a relic of the past and who can tap not only into the mind but also the desires of every voter.
Anti-populist politicians must be reborn to have a shot in an unequal fight. It’s also important to take full advantage of technology and means of communication.
Until recently, the advance of communication technology clearly favored populists. French President Emmanuel Macron has shown that with a little thought, the same tools, particularly social media, can be used as the weapons of responsible forces.
The American thinker ended on an excellent point, saying those who believe in liberal principals and rationalism must keep a clear mind and a stiff upper lip. There is really no other way to deal with the forces of populism.
As we’ve said, it’s not defeat at the polls that’s important. What is important is that the battle of arguments is won and that there can be an ideological shift in Greek society.
In Greece, populism exists not just in places you’d expect but also in political parties that supposedly represent the liberal, pro-European direction of the country.