OPINION: The elites can’t ignore populist outcries

OPINION: The elites can’t ignore populist outcries

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Populism is rising not just in the US but in Europe too as voters grow dissatisfied with the elites’ push for integration, writes John Fund for the National Review.

How we got here: Brexit and the election of President Trump "symbolized a broader revolt against elites by frustrated voters in other countries. The populist revolt was a reaction to elites’ reckless and anti-democratic push for ever greater integration. Many critics have tried to paint these uprisings in scary terms by branding them as rooted in racism or xenophobia."

Reasons: "But it’s unarguable that many populist concerns are rooted in the understandable desire — of people who feel neglected, even held in contempt, by distant, self-interested liberal elites — to have a voice. That is especially true in Europe, where a suffocating European Union bureaucracy threatens both to hold back economic innovation and to trample on many of the continent’s traditions," writes Fund.

"Much of that anger stems from the fact that an educated elite increasingly controls the political process in Europe. They have little connection to many of the people they purport to represent. In Britain, only 3 percent of members of Parliament have ever labored in a working-class job, while 18 percent have no work experience outside politics."

The rise of populism: "Populists are succeeding in the most unlikely of places. Swedish Democrats, for example, are now tied for first place among all parties in the latest polls in Sweden, with 23 percent of the vote. But even in prosperous Sweden, only 27 percent of voters believe that the country is heading in the right direction, while 50 percent think that it is going in the wrong direction," writes Fund.

Is it the economy? "[T]he vote for Brexit in Britain took place as unemployment was at its lowest rate since the 1970s. Goodhart noted that Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party draw the bulk of their support from a diverse alliance of skilled workers, middle-class Conservatives, affluent pensioners, and the self-employed. Switzerland’s People’s Party often places first in elections in a country with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world."

The result: "[I]n country after country roiled by populist uprisings, elites are steadfastly refusing to grapple with the legitimate sentiments of working-class voters, dissidents from politically correct identity politics, and people who feel their voices aren’t heard. So long as they choose to remain deaf, they can expect populism to continue to grow in its fervor and influence," Fund concludes.

Read the full op-ed here.

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