Connotations of Populist References – Edwin Walther


“It seems to me that there is a definitional term about the word ‘populism’. The word is being used pejoratively more and more. The word is being extended in its meaning for personal and political expedience. The term is being used as a means to decry anything that one disagrees with.

The term populism is also tied to the tendency of attributing a blasé type bullet dodging attitude in terms of election results across Europe in the last year or so. With the narrow defeat of the Austrian Freedom party there was a hurrah and cheers that resonated yes we defeated the populists! That Austrian Freedom party joined with the Austrian People’s Party to form a coalition government however.
Similarly, after the Dutch election and Gerd Wilders defeat people rejoiced that his Freedom Party only came in second.
Following the French  election results, again, people spouted things like ‘thank goodness that La Pen only got a third of the French vote’.
Or following the German election, people similarly expressed dismay that the AFD came in third.
These all represent a counterproductive way of looking at the situation. Indeed it is dismissive. As is looking at this as a perception problem, that the public thinks the wrong thing and so must needs be corrected. Douglas Murray has basically made the same points as I.
Bernard-Henri Levy says that populism occurs when the people are reduced to the mob. This is an example of dismissing the issue. Such a view makes a sort of claim that the millions of Germans whom voted for the AFD must surely somehow belong to the angry uneducated class of skin heads, which is nonsensical.
Francis Fukuyama makes an in interesting point on populism. ‘When a “populist” speaks about “the people” it usually does not mean the entire population. It means a certain subset, a certain group that represents the older more dominant portion…’ Fukuyama makes a point albeit with a narrow spectrum; I think this is also true and applies to a subset that is feeling threatened, has been disenfranchised or is about to be. ‘The people’ can be any subset across the spectrum depending on the times and circumstances.”
– Edwin Walther