Populism: The ideology historically embraced by the agrarian and working class. First popularized in the 19th century, the political logic is currently experiencing a widespread revival across the United States and Europe, with leaders such as Donald Trump of the Republican Party and Marine Le Pen of the National Front taking to the forefront of the movement. The appeal of the two politicians, with their shared values, goals, beliefs, and followings, in their respective countries helps visualise why populism has gained the amount of traction that it has.
In the U.S, the majority of 2016 was characterized by the bitter competition showcased in the presidential election. It summarized the growing anxieties of many Americans on controversial topics such as racial tensions, national defense, immigration, and healthcare. Then candidate Donald Trump garnered the country’s attention with enthusiastic promises to erect giant walls and enforce strict deportation policies in order reduce the high percentage of Mexican immigrants entering the United States. Trump has also supported an enthusiastic, if not somewhat controversial, campaign to eradicate the Islamic State and radical islamic terrorism.
Months later, the 2017 French election appears as a broken record. As of March, the two candidates making it to the second and final round of voting left much to be desired. Opposite of the liberal candidate Emmanuel Macron stood Marine Le Pen. Like Trump, Le Pen represents the core movement for anti-immigration, nationalism, and the rejection of anything politically correct. In May, Macron won against Le Pen in the second round, but the latter’s popularity and striking resemblance to her American counterpart raise the question as to why their shared set of beliefs is so appealing.
Isolationist and anti-immigration stances are not the only characteristics of populism, but they are the most prominent in this year’s election cycle. Le Pen championed herself as a representative of the blue collar workers who felt threatened by the nation’s changing population and labor market. Trump did the same, marketing himself to America’s forgotten demographic: lower class workers and their families who had been the subject of ridicule time and time again. The tensions between the socioeconomic levels of society have culminated over the past few decades, causing a deep resentment of the elite from the group that feels as though it has been left behind.