CRF Blog

Mad as Hell

by David De La Torre

In Mad as Hell, The Economist reviews The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John Judis.

Mr Judis argues that the populist explosion is unlikely to be a mere temporary aberration: particular parties such as UKIP may implode, but the tendency draws on a deep well of discontent with the status quo. Technocratic elites lost much of their credibility in the global financial crisis in 2008. The EU has damaged its claim to be a guardian of democracy against populist extremists by repeatedly ignoring referendums in which voters rejected new treaties. The populists have shown a genius for taking worries that contain a nugget of truth — such as that unrestricted immigration is destabilising — and turning them into vote-winning platforms. And they have relentlessly broadened and deepened their appeal as establishment politicians have marginalised the issues that give them life, for example treating worries about migration as nothing but racism. France’s National Front, the most mature of all the populist parties, has already extended its constituency from small businesses to blue-collar workers, pocketing districts that were once dominated by the left and now extending its appeal to public-sector workers. [more]