Another one bites the populist dust

Just been watching the news report on the Portuguese elections. The conservatives have gained the most votes with the populist parties a close second.
Why is it that Europe has taken such a right turn in the last years?
I asked this question on the old EF and never got a workable answer. By now some time has passed and I think it is because people are starting to run scared, they see that the more socialist countries are spending the people´s money on vanity items like environmental issues, foreign aid, refugees and… and… and, with less and less left over for the countries own infrastructure and needs. Everything is getting more and more expensive with: fuel, heating, shopping, energy… and…and…and!
Disclaimer: Just trying to get into the populist mindset here.
From history we know that when times become hard, like the period we are going through, the people look to a strong “leader” and to more authoritarian forms of government, is the same thing happening right now?
Populist right wing really took hold in Europe after the stockmarket crash of 1929, when people lost almost everything, so could the same thing happen again?

In my view:

  • Envy and narcissism: The feeling of being cheated out of what one “deserves” (= more and more stuff without effort). Shameless public display of luxury and wealth (incl. on social media like Instagram) makes people feel poor despite them doing actually well and better than ever before. Were the underlying reason primarily economic, the populism would likely be rather left-wing than right-wing

  • Feeling threatened by multi-crises that are so intimidating that it is easier to ignore them and find scape goats than dealing with them: Climate change, migration, the return of war as a normal instead of the exception. Escaping into nostalgia like the belief that everything was better in the 70s when there were no blackies and only traditional white families and everybody was doing well doing “honest work”

  • Challenges feel so big that easy answers are preferred. Leads to preferences for strongmen who tell us whose fault it all is and how easy it is to fix by playing hardball (and forgetting all decency)

  • Manipulative algorithms in media that once you start looking down the rabbit hole you never read anything else again


I think this is just an easy line for the populists to take. Tell people their money is being given to refugees, benefit scroungers and windmills at the expense of investment in healthcare, education and “real issues”, and people rarely fact check to see if it’s really true.

Sometimes I wish that these populists really would get into power so they then have to make good on their claims.


Mostly, Western countries are now experiencing the direct impact of overseas conflicts and exploitation…namely an unprecendented flow of migrants. The real or perceived level of crime / security is not being properly dealt with by centrist governments, making the topic ripe for populists.

Corporate greed and inflation - Post 2008 crash, we enjoyed almost 10 years of low interest and inflation. Big business is not sharing the pain, rather profiting from it or passing it on to consumers. Cost of living is biting, and causing the middle class to disappear.

Social Media - open to manipulation, and the algorithms have the effect of increasing political polarisation, not reduce it.

On the whole, centrist governments have avoided dealing with voter concerns head-on, making the fast-food solutions offered up by populists mighty tasty. (the stomach ache comes later).


The real effect of swinging left and right in western governments is minimal. In the UK Labour and the Conservatives have very few real differences now when in power. They bow to outside interests. Even in Switzerland, a so called direct democracy, drastic change is stopped (MEI). The instant goal oriented media we have now deceives perceptions of how people are really living.

I saw Obama in Hallenstadion where he came across as no one special and he said that when in power the ability to affect change is minimal.

People believe they are empowering change when really they’re not

But the world slowly evolves and the instant goal oriented media we have now is a bit bizzare. Just look at the non accepting comments on their articles

1 Like

The uniparty, huh? Controlled by globalist elites, huh? Looks to me like you are part of the problem.

1 Like

I’ve asked such question myself a few times. My observation:

  1. The richer people are the more they focus on environment, society, art, culture…
  2. Even if people are struggling economically, it’s fine if the end of it is seen on the horizon. If you believe that the economic situation is generally improving the current situation feels only temporary and maybe even give you motivation to work hard out of it.

In the EU in general it seems we reached a plateau of real economic improvement for more than a decade. Sure there’s GDP and what not, but the situation of average Joe doesn’t improve anymore. It’s rather the opposite, costs are rising. Housing prices (buy, rent) are rising far beyond expectation and often beyond affordability so average Joes have to move out. Pension systems are falling apart due to demographics (retirement age has been raised almost everywhere, yet pensioners are crying for help).

In this scenery, people are asking for a strong leadership as it seems the system is failing.

But PT in particular has a big problem: It has become the new darling of relatively rich people from all over the world. Mea culpa. Cascais, where we lived, is flooded with expensive cars and huge influxes of people who are willing to pay more than the locals are for just about everything. Rents have skyrocketed (partly because of the structure of laws that afford protection to renters and partly just because the builders cannot keep up with demand.) The average Joao can’t afford his rent or food because of this. Corruption in gov’t has meant EU money got spent on expensive infrastructure the locals can’t afford to use (fancy autobahns, e.g.) while at the local level things are still the same old slow-moving potholed mess. They are (relatively) recently free from authoritarianism, but there is still a massive bureaucracy.

1 Like

IMO, this is a result of a series of events that spans at least 2 decades. Going back to the bursting of the dotcom bubble, we’ve seen central banks stimulate the economy to dampen the effects of the downturn instead of letting the recessions play out fully.

This created echo booms and busts in 2008 and more recently with Covid. Maybe we’ll see this next recession follow the same playbook and fuel an AI bubble.

The cutting of rates to zero caps off a multi-decade drop in interest rates and multi-decade bond bull market, and in recent years, an everything bull market.

This has severly widened the gap between the haves and have-nots. Many people have seen their purchasing power eroded along with their quality of life. A lucky segment were able to increase their earnings.

The luckiest were those who held hard assets such as real estate and stocks. People wondered why QE and loose fiscal policy didn’t result in much more consumer inflation (at least not until recently). The answer is that you saw it in asset price inflation instead.

On top of that the rise in 2 income families pushed asset prices even more as 2 incomes were brought to bear on buying property within school cachement and other desirable areas.

You see also social issues including a growing gap between the left/right divide between men and women. Women who were encouraged to pursue a career now find out the reality that biology doesn’t adjust to social changes and we have falling birth rates and older parents.

Those that bought a house might be sitting on 6 figure gains. Those that did not might feel that home ownership is now completely out of reach.

This growing inequality fuels discontent and will be a major political challenge.

1 Like

Pretty much this. Social issues (poverty, crime, addiction, etc) is highly correlated to wealth/income gaps. Centrist politicians are generally too cowardly to implement measures as they are either unpopular, countered by lobbyists, or the politicians themselves would experience a personal loss. Politicians who truly represent the lower classes no longer exist.
The pickings are ripe for populists, who insinuate that foreigners are out to steal what little the working class have. Meanwhile they suppor de-regulation and tax cuts for rich and corporations.
I am not a socialist, but the lack of corporate social conscience will ultimately contribute to democratic/capitalist demise.

1 Like

Probably the unregulated immigration together with the strain it puts on housing, schools, health systems etc.

1 Like

Assuming and trying to impose with aggression is quite common in this day and age

1 Like

This exactly and it is very hard if not impossible to change

Is that an example of populism? :thinking:

1 Like
1 Like

I vaguely remember a newspaper article from a long time ago, when Obama was a freshly elected Senator for Illinois (IIRC).

The journalist was persuaded by a friend to go to an event where Obama spoke. He wasn’t very convinced afterwards.

A lot of all this is speech writers and the ability of candidate to “deliver” those speeches.


Substance and content play a secondary role to appearance and marketing in many aspects of life

Populists seem to have closely read Göring and what has been really well described above can be summed up in this quote from Herman Göring:

„Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.„

See any resemblance to how the European new-right is attracting followers?

Not quite. Yesterday on Twitter I read a piece by some “intellectual” pro-AfD columnist (Tichy) who argued that Germany today (woke and green) was not worth defending against a Russian threat.


This is very true and what we have at the moment are two polarised opinions. The uprising of ‚equality‘ for all is not sustainable. It’s a utopian achievement. How can you have that when everyone is in it for themselves first. That’s a bit of a generalisation and not meant in a bad way, but if you take every action to the bitter conclusion people will say ‚what about me? So as the phrase has been coined ‚go woke, go broke‘ eg Disney and Is it Budweiser ads. But the pushing of minorities has given them a voice but now comes the inevitable pushback. So I guess authorities will hear the opinions of the other people again but the ‚woke‘ rights and voice is now here.

As with everything argument there’s good and bad on both sides. I used to hear a lot that the far left and far right are basically the same