• The global surge of populism and how things can only get worse

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    RACHEL A.G. REYES

    RACHEL A.G. REYES

    I AM not by nature a pessimist, but it is getting harder not to think the worst is yet to come. The newly elected “leader of the free world” is an unabashed sexist bigot, billionaire tax evader, climate change denier, endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. Women, immigrants and ethnic minorities, Muslims, Jews, refugees, gay people, cosmopolitans, the world economy, even the planet itself, have now good reason to fear. Donald Trump will be moving into the White House. What might America become and what will be the global consequences?

    We are seeing a terrifying, seemingly unstoppable surge of populism. Following in its wake is heightened intolerance, hatefulness, xenophobic nationalism, anti-intellectualism, economic and gender inequality, and callous misogyny.

    Although they are taking different national forms and emerging in diverse places, authoritarian figures are finding footholds at roughly the same time. From Vladimir Putin in Russia, RecepTayyipErdoğan in Turkey, and of course, our own Rodrigo Duterte, to the far-right demagogues surfacing all over Europe–Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Brexit Britain’s Nigel Farage, Norbert Hofer in Austria, Viktor Orbān in Hungary, and Beppe Grillo in Italy–these are leaders who are having their day or are moving up. They do not value human rights and disrespect liberal democracy’s checks and balances, the rule of law and due process. They take pride in debasing political discourse with divisive rhetoric, vitriol and vulgarity, ignorance and lies. Seen from a global perspective, Trump’s shocking victory seems to be less an aberration than an alarming trend.

    These leaders are capitalizing on, as much as exploiting, the legitimate grievances and anger of citizens who have been sold down the river by globalization’s promises of connectedness and shared success and wealth. To people whose social mobility has calcified, whose wages are stagnant, whose pensions have evaporated, whose communities are fractured and destroyed, globalization looks awfully like an elaborate hoax. People have found themselves condescended to and ignored by an out-of-touch neoliberal elite with pro-corporate interests, operating from positions of bureaucratic remoteness. Washington, the European Union, and so-called “Imperial Manila” seem to present strange parallels.

    The geographically distant citizenries of Europe, the US, and the Philippines share some fundamental commonalities-–pain borne from life-sapping indebtedness, powerlessness and, increasingly, scarily precarious futures. In all these places, maintaining a decent standard of living is becoming more difficult, jobs are being lost, safety nets are torn asunder, and a sense of insecurity and distrust prevails. Most frustratingly, peoples’ grievances are falling on deaf ears. Or worse, they are dismissed as being politically incorrect by high-minded, self-righteous liberals sealed off in their echo chambersand their safe bubbles of like-minded Facebook communities. Liberals who label those who voted for Trump, for Duterte, for Brexitas immigrant-hating, sexist, racist, ignorant plebs with extremist views, do massive injustice to and insult those who cast their vote in the desperate hope for real change.

    Populist ideology privileges “the people” and “the people’s will” above all other sources of authority. But when populist leaders claim to be the voice of all ordinary, decent, real and hardworking people, they are not thinking of the intractable “Others” who don’t share the same cultural origins, political views, skin color, sexual orientation, and religion as they. The neo-fascism fomented by such leaders, and vigorously fueled by a hard-core minority of vicious social media trolls, patently denies a place at the table for the swathes of humanity perceived to be a poor fit for the new world order envisioned by nationalist populism.

    The last few weeks have been appallingly bad for democratic institutions. In Britain, high court judges received death threats and were lampooned by the country’s tabloid press for ruling that parliamentary approval must first be obtained before the UK’s Conservative government could trigger Brexit.

    Closer to home, how is anyone to feel safe when the police act with flagrant impunity? How will faith in the system, already fragile and tenuous at best in our country, ever be strengthened when a dozen police officers are able to assassinate a public official while he sits in a jail cell? Despite surrendering himself to the law some months ago, and being assured of his personal safety by Philippine National Police chief Roland ‘Bato’ de la Rosa, Albuera, Leyte MayorRolando Espinosa, was murdered in cold blood inside a prison by law enforcement officers. President Duterte has sided with the police and has so far resisted calls for an investigation.

    The election of Trump has, unquestionably, energized the extreme right, pushed forward the tide of nativist populism and the shift toward illiberal democracy everywhere. If we don’t find ways to combat fear and hatred, restore trust in democratic political systems, constructively engage with people of different views, backgrounds and life experiences, and build progressive coalitions, things are bound to get a whole lot worse.

    rachelagreyes@gmail.com

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    7 Comments

    1. I Agree 100% with the Rachel Reyes, I have live in US for 35 years, now the fear for life of people of color, is much threatening now, because of Trumps backing of the white supremacist in that country, and people of US is much divided. This one reason why there are lots of demonstration in all major cities of US.

    2. Are you a Filipino/American do you pay taxes in states?, if not got no right to call off color names about the new US Pres. stick your nose to your local affairs.

    3. Trump is not as bad as the liberal/left wing press makes him out to be. Endorsements by racists are not solicited. No one wants them but the haters publicize them in order to make themselves seem important. Trump is not a tax evader. The US income tax law is the crowing glory of the Democrat Party. His tax returns cost thousands of dollars to prepare, are scrutinized by dozens of lawyers and reviewed again by the IRS at Trump’s request. He follows the letter of the law. He does not evade taxes and if he had the thousands of investigators seeking to dig up dirt on him during this election would have found it and publicized it. The New York Times broke the law and published three pages of his return that showed no taxes paid. Big deal. He was writing off loses from previous years as the law says he should. Instead the last minute surprises were all on Hillary and all of her own making. Climate change denying is a sign of good judgement. No one can survey the history and the “science” behind “Climate Change” (the term was changed from “Man Made Global Warming” when Al Gore was getting stuck in snow storms en route to his seminars on the topic) without becoming skeptical of the so called “consensus” of the politicized “scientists” involved. They routinely deny their findings when the money runs out and admit they based their data to attain the desired findings in the first place. Once again “emails” betrayed them. Rebuttals are clear and seemingly easy to explain in the face of data manipulated by computer models. The political motive behind climate science is all leftist
      and anti capitalist; stop “progress” , especially in places like the Philippines where cheap energy is needed most. Rachel is a well educated, feminist woman of the type that voted en mass for Hillary because she was a woman. She believes she will be immune from the consequences of her leftism. Trump is the kind of guy you see a lot of in the Philippines and not enough of in America anymore. Where will this all end? Will America end up like the Philippines or will Rachel end up in San Francisco or NYC with the rest of the girls?

    4. Rachel, You state, “I AM not by nature a pessimist, but it is getting harder not to think the worst is yet to come.” Your column does not bring one bit of reason to your The Sky Is Falling perspective. Take a deep breath. You need to think about your family and friends and remember everything is not bad and there is a lot of good in this world.

      Being serious, the fear of populism is silly and is not beneficial to anyone. What do you want to do? Change to a King in government?

    5. An ‘illiberal’ democracy? Could it possibly be that there is an alternative choice for the people? Could it possibly that the liberals and the media were and possibly are blind to what people really are saying?

      Painting those that opt for an alternative choice as bigots or some other kind of devil may be sloppy thinking. There may be a greater message that the losing party and the media might not be seeing. And that just may be a more dangerous step that takes us down the path to tyranny.

    6. Its called democracy, but you call it populism if the democratic choice is not to your liking. And that is called double standard.