Democracy is a dream that masses of people from all over the world dream of and yearn for – a conceptual process of decision making by a rigid understanding of ‘majority rules’. Democracy is a lifestyle where every individual citizen has the right to representation in decision making; each and every person has a voice in the process.
Millions of people around the globe are deprived of their human rights and freedoms, and are suppressed by dictatorial leaders. In some occasions, this dictatorial mindset even seeps into ‘democratic’ governing systems. A true democracy must inherently function for the people and by the people, by the rule of majority support and equal representation among all individuals. Unfortunately, these simple elements of democracy are frequently undermined even quite openly – and the people accept it as an unfavourable complication of democracy. It is not. When supposed democratic decision makers take matters of the people into their own individual interest, this is where the line of democracy is crossed.
When a politician prioritizes their own personal views or the partisan interests of their political party, they are undermining democracy and acting against the best interests of constituents. Democracy is not perfect, and nothing is – but people should dispel the misconception that democracy is free of exploitation. Democratic leaders have a duty and obligation to represent solely the interests of their people, even if they contrast with their own. Sacrifices need to be made in every position, and these leaders must make their sacrifice by separating their own view from that of their constituents.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has failed to support the interests of Canadians nationwide. He has neglected Albertans in particular regarding the energy sector upon which millions of people rely on directly and indirectly. Blatantly ignoring and opposing the interests of his own people, he undermines the representative system by which Canadian Parliament functions, and quite frankly, Justin Trudeau is upending democracy and acting in a dictatorial manner.
In our modern day, political movements on all sides of the spectrum have been driven largely by populist strategies, or rather by appealing directly to the interests of the people and opposing some defined establishment. Offering a voice for the people, populist leaders are brash and bold in their policies, often making promises to thwart a threatening status quo.
Looking back at recent gains in populist support, President Donald Trump stands out as the headline, but populism has taken significant strides in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, as well as North America. Part of President Trump’s successful election was thanks to his strong opposition to much of the status quo. Though every opposition leader in any nation is critical of the ruling establishment, Trump was persistent in his attacks on the media, the Democratic party’s shortcomings under the Obama administration, and on illegal immigration. All the while, he resonated with the American people on a vast number of issues, understanding their struggles in all demographics and emotionally appealing to them that he would be able to turn their lives around.
In France, Marine Le Pen has led the Front National right-wing party to a steady rise. Ultimately she drove the party to second place in the last presidential election, garnering about 34% of the vote in the second round, losing to Emmanuel Macron. In 2019, the Front National took lead in French representation in the European Parliament as the party narrowly beat out Macron’s coalition in the European elections. The clear growth experienced over the last few years by the French Front National party serves as an indication that sentiments among the French people are moving away from European centralisation and globalist strategies. Le Pen has gradually reformed her party’s image on the national stage and reinvented herself of a true and blunt representative of the people she represents, and not a disconnected leader who is too politically motivated.
Populism can take form on any part of the political spectrum; socialists, fascists, liberals, and conservatives can all function on populist platforms and strategies. The real defining factor that goes into populist policies are that they are formed for the people and in the interest of the people at the request of the people. In modern democracies, political leaders often are tied to the obligation of prioritizing and representing a rigid set of policies and ideals in the interest of their respective political party or affiliation, but populist groups and individuals value and prioritize the direct interests and requests of the people above party loyalty.
All in all, populism embodies the true fundamentals of democracy. Individuals who are politically uninvolved have a falsified idea of what a democracy is. The idealistic stance that many individuals hold regarding democracy ends up being tainted by party politics and policies for the sole sake of partisan opposition. In reality, populist strategies used within a democratic system capitalize on the true force of democracy for the betterment of society and individuals.