Populism, nasty or nice?

People may call themselves leftists, rightists, or centrists, depending on their views. Few are happy to identify themselves as populists, however, even though there is nothing inherently wrong with populism. At its best, populism keeps a democracy healthy and drives change. But at its worst, populism is a launch pad for extremist agendas.

Throughout history extremists have piggybacked on people´s legitimate concerns. With demagoguery,scapegoating, and conspiracy theories, they have channeled understandable feelings of frustration into extremist hate, and sometimes full-scale destruction.

We are seeing prime examples of nasty, far-right piggybacking in the US and in Europe today.

In the US, Donald Trump´s campaign was immediately piggybacked by right-wing extremists. Trump may want us to think that it was just campaign talk,  but the extremist parasites are still hanging on to his back, and thriving.

In France, Marine Le Pen, with her far-right, “Close France” presidential agenda, is piggybacking Trump too. She is building on French fears, and positioning herself as the Trump of France. In her extremist demagoguery, immigration, Islam, and ISIS end up sounding like a package deal. With one, you get the others.

But we should keep our eye on the ball; on the legitimate concerns of many. Jobs have been lost in Europe, as well as in the US. Mainly due to technological advancement and globalisation, although extremists like to blame it all on immigration.

As wealth is being redistributed worldwide, people strive to safeguard their livelihoods. It takes a lot of human decency to share with others, when there is little to share from.

I wish Angela Merkel had kept her eye on the ball, when she made her re-election bid to the Germans. Instead of just positioning herself as a counterpoint to Trump, and lumping Trump and his voters together as populists, I would have expected her to distinguish more clearly between the campaign rhetoric of Trump and his far-right piggybackers and the underlying concerns of Trump voters.

Germany may be doing well today, but not every German is doing well. The same is true for all EU countries. The various concerns and frustrations of many EU citizens should not be lumped under the simple category of populism, and belittled as such, just because extremists are piggybacking them.

Merkel could have looked in the mirror and conceded that there is room for improvement within the EU, especially in the way EU bureaucrats address people´s  everyday concerns. As it is today, the gap between EU bureaucrats and the people of individual EU countries is becoming untenable.

A note to all you extremist piggybackers, right and left. I am pro EU, but see the need for reform. I am not advocating an alternative to Merkel, or a change in immigration policies. I am against any form of bigotry, whether racism,sexism, religious intolerance, or any other prejudice. So get off my back.

And a note to all Californians, who want California to exit from the US. When a ship is off course, and heading for murky waters, your first instinct should not be to take the lifeboats and leave the other passengers to their fate. Even if it is, your second instinct should be to do something about changing the ship´s course.