There is a ‘must read’ article by journalist Andrew Sullivan, a Brit who has lived in the States for the last 30 years, that has been published in a number of places and is a sobering read.
It talks of the wave of populism that is carrying Donald Trump on a journey towards the White House, if he can beat Hillary Clinton. Sullivan observes that Trump is striking chords with voters because they are disillusioned with political leadership as currently practised.
He goes on to draw parallels with the rise fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, when a populist leadership heralded a change from a status quo the people were fed up with the incumbent leadership. Then he argues of a virtual unavoidability that people will tire of democracy and turn to a populist leader who will then inevitably turn out to be “a demagogic, tyrannical character”. This, he purports, is an argument postulated by Plato, no less, in the heyday of classical Greece.
Given that Trump’s trumpeting of a ‘wall’ at the Mexican border and of repatriation appear to be already half way to ethnic cleansing, there looks to be more than a grain of substance to this train of thought.
Closer to home the swing away from the mainstream reflected in the ascendancy of Jeremy Corbyn, UKIP and the Greens shows a growing restlessness in the electorate here as well. If Plato and Sullivan are right then we might watch out for the rise of charismatic populist in the UK as well.
I would strongly advocate that everybody reads Andrew Sullivan’s paper and reflects on it, with particular reference to our own increasing political fragmentation and considers the inherent risks of an electorate that feels disenfranchised from the political system.
It is time to rebuild trust between our communities and our politicians and that means action from both ends.