Political Discontent

Questions about Populism

Where does populism come from? And what does it mean for democracy?

Before the municipal elections a class asked me to visit their political market. The children all got assigned a political party and had to make campaign material. One of the groups got a populist party. They asked me what I found good about that party. My answer was that I was happy that people who felt unrepresented found a voice, even if I don’t agree with their policies.

The political discontent in most Western countries sometimes puzzles me. So, I’m trying to figure out why it’s there and what it means for democracy.

Questions like:

  • How come people in the Netherlands, a country that appears in the top ten of all the lists of good things in the world are so unhappy?
  • Or, how is it that a small minority of people feel unheard, when factually they get a disproportionate amount of attention?
  • Why are groups in societies becoming more tribal, and why does that mean you don’t want to talk people from another tribe?
  • How can some consistently blame others for the troubles they experience, without taking any form of responsibility?
  • Why do some people vote for an anti-elitist message by electing very elite and privileged politicians?

I’d like to share what I discover in the next couple of months, and would love to hear some reflections.