The populist threat looks to have been neutralised over recent months—at least on the continent. But if political leaders aren’t careful, it will come back with a vengeanceby Sophie Gaston / July 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
The astonishing success of Emmanuel Macron across the Channel has provided a rapturous symbol of hope to liberals who find themselves on the wrong side of history, living in the shadow of Donald Trump and Brexit and authoritarian impulses.
But it is important to remember the pernicious and deep-seated influence that populist narratives continue to play in our societies, long after they are seemingly “neutralised” at the ballot box.
The political outlook for Europe remains mixed, with the spectre of far-right populism continuing to lurk in political rhetoric, the language of the media, and in citizens’ attitudes towards their political institutions, and one another.
The fears and concerns that gave rise to populist parties in the first place developed over many years, and cannot simply vanish. They will continue to live on until they are addressed decisively, whether through policy responses or a robust new political language. If given hope, dashed again, populists could even become emboldened, ushering in a new era of disruptive shocks at the ballot box as the unweaving social contract comes fully apart.
If there is the air of a sense of calm across the continent now, it is a delicate calm, which masks a risk-taking appetite that remains high. In this landscape, it is worth revisiting the landscape of social and cultural insecurities that have provided the backdrop for the political upheavals of recent years, as whether seen or unseen, they will remain important for many more years to come.