In 2016, the rise of populist politics has officially arrived, on both sides of the Atlantic. While there are considerable differences between the U.S. and Europe in terms of political systems and discourse, there are some important parallels as well.
Analysts in both credit the increasing popularity of anti-establishment and nationalist politicians and parties to voters’ concerns not just about access to jobs and affordable housing, but also about basic security and the scale of unwanted immigration and the fear that it threatens to change fundamentals of national culture. These concerns are magnified by an increase in seemingly random acts of terror, from Paris to Orlando, and intense debates between politicians and voters who would limit migration and those who want to provide humanitarian asylum to refugees.
While the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have taken many in the U.S. by surprise, their candidacies are symptomatic of the frustration and disenfranchisement that has become increasingly common with “politics as usual” in Europe. Across the continent, populist parties fronted by charismatic leaders are on the rise and moving determinedly towards the centre of national politics. Examples include the Front National in France, the Sweden Democrats, the Austrian Freedom Party, the British U.K. Independence Party and the Polish Law and Justice Party, to name just a few.
Earlier this year, we commented on the increasingly large gap between “the elites” and ordinary citizens when it comes to trust in government and other major institutions. This week, we’ll examine how these same dynamics are playing out across Europe – starting with the United Kingdom and Brexit.