Building Open and Safe Societies for All
Countering Right-wing Populism
The right-wing populists that promote xenophobia, fundamentalism and violent radicalization seem to be on the rise and winning the debate in Europe, USA and South East Asia.
Political and economic marginalization aggravated by the financial crises in different continents since the 90’s have contributed to undermine established political leaders and stirred popular discontent. Many voters responded by electing maverick politicians who promised to target corruption, establish fresh agendas and radically solve all problems. In many cases, populist leaders based their appeal on the frustrations and aspirations of groups excluded from political power or afraid of the current socio-economic challenges.
There are several reasons why they seem to be winning: they are well organised and they seem to care what people think. But the latter does not necessarily relate to facts, on the contrary it rather relates to perceptions and emotions. There is a need to consolidate the consensus in our societies around tolerance, fundamental rights and pluralism. As our societies become more diverse and immigration reaches more communities, more people ought to become less prejudiced and more supportive.
We need to rebuild public support by tackling issues that lie at the root of public anger. Inequality and social injustice are fuelling the frustration of traditional left-wing voters, especially when they see elites benefiting from privileges, tax evasion and misuse of public funds. By strengthening tools to combat corruption and tax evasion and by establishing remedies against discrimination and exclusion, progressives can show that institutions serve more than the interests of economic elites. By speaking truth to power that be, reaching out to our traditional base of support from the ordinary people, and continuing to pose concrete but strategic solutions, progressives can remain alternatives to short-term, divisive and often hollow populist calls.