Maybe some voters have always voted against rather than for things. But surely around the world there has never been such a time when electorates know what they don’t like rather than what they are for.
The feeling that all is not well and that “something needs to be done” is endemic in the West. It gave us Trump. It gives us Johnson. It might even have given us Le Pen or Corbyn. Note that for us to vote in such a way there has to be a candidate.
The rise in the electability of outsiders is partly a function of perceived political failure by traditional politicians. Hillary Clinton was as traditional establishment as they come and was punished for it. In the French presidential elections of 2017 and 2022 the traditional parties of Left and Right were annihilated. Macron was an outsider in 2017 and hardly mainstream in 2022.
The electoral system in France permitted in 2017 a man with little or no political background to be elected. In Britain that would be almost impossible. But in a binary choice plebiscite in 2016 the British electorate did air its dissatisfaction with the establishment as America was to do later that year and France the following one.
In 2019 the electorate in Britain felt empowered to go for the unconventional as they had in 2016 and almost had in 2017. “Leave” and its reworked message “Get Brexit Done” were votes against the political norms – the enemy was foreigners and the establishment. Easy targets not requiring cerebral logic.
One has to be very careful with Third Reich comparisons but National Socialism was built on being against the Weimar establishment parties as much (maybe more) than it was for Hitler’s policies. The Nazis enemies were the political establishment and those who were cerebral. The anti Woke movements of today are not dissimilar.
One thought on “The rise in the electability of outsiders is a function of political failure by traditional politicians.”
I think the general dissatisfaction with politics and its leaders in western democracies began around the turn of the Millenium. In Britain, Tony Blair was hugely popular then but the electorate felt he had betrayed them over the Iraq war. He could not recover from what was perhaps in hindsight his nemesis. When people feel betrayed by leaders that gave them such hope their demise is absolute. JFK escaped that attribute by getting assassinated.
In France, during the Millenium, the people longed for change. I was a French resident then. Sarkozy came along and expectations rose high. Once again he disappointed the people who supported him with overtly dishonest behaviour.
In America, the electorate also longed for change. For change simply read hope for something better than the past. Obama was probably the only president that did not disappoint but produced very little “Yes We Can”. Clinton was seen as more of the same old same old boring establishment. Buggins Turn.
In short, the general discontent with politics has at its roots the voting system. People don’t bother to vote when they know full well that vote will not make any difference.
The recent French election was a choice between two right-wing candidates. One more extreme than the other. That is no choice at all if your political leaning is to the left. That only fosters disillusion in the minds of at least a quarter of the French population who are on the left.
The French parliamentary elections in June may produce a shock and the disaffected voters of the left may get Melenchon as prime minister. That in my view would be the best France could hope for.
Personally, I am utterly disillusioned with politics of all colours. Perhaps it’s just the stage of life I am in. Or perhaps it’s because ‘if voting changed anything they would make it illegal.’ I still believe that.
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