It's now been 300 days since Jair Bolsonaro took command of Brazil, 500 days since Matteo Salvini scored big in the Italian legislative elections, nearly 1,000 days since Donald Trump entered the White House and 1,100 days since the British voted for Brexit. What do we see each time? A long examination is not necessary to conclude that they are not good. In recent years, populists have clearly found the words to conquer power. They are quick to show their limits once they exercise it.
Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Westminster for five weeks to give himself a free hand on managing London's exit from the European Union at the end of October is, simply put, a denial of democracy. Certainly, it is possible that some of the public may agree with him: MPs have been unable to move forward for the past two years, they can say. Certainly, it's clever. It is above all the Prime Minister's choice, to play the people against their elected representatives. In the country where parliamentarianism was born, this is a strange signal.
On the other side of the Alps, the blasting of the ruling coalition by the League's boss plunged Italy into a deep political crisis. The unexpected outcome could be a government without Matteo Salvini, who would suffer a bitter failure. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro's personal behavior and decisions spark outrage around the world, while the trade war unleashed by Donald Trump weighs on the global economy without benefiting the United States.
It doesn't take much to make Trump seem reasonable.
Each time, there is an attraction toward something new for voters dissatisfied with their situation, toward he who speaks out loud and clear. This is how the demagogues arrive. But quickly, the principle of reality returns to its rightful place, promises are shattered, higher stakes are revealed: peace in Northern Ireland, economic stability in Italy, a complicated balance of power between Washington and Beijing. Suddenly, everything is more complicated again.
The concern about this landscape is twofold. Our expectations of values are changing, as we gradually get used to raging tweets, abracadabra decisions and even just plain insults. It was enough for the American President to soften up a bit this past weekend at the G7 in Biarritz to suddenly appear more reasonable... than others! Secondly, sound-minded democrats are still struggling to find the right solutions to contemporary problems, including the anger of the working classes. Until such solutions are offered, demagogues will have the wind in their sails.
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