The rise of populist demagoguery

The rise of populist demagoguery

The election of Donald Trump has confirmed that we live increasingly in an era of direct democracy based on populist demagoguery. Developments in Hungary and Poland also show that Europe is not exempt from this. Even Brexit was the result of this.
France appears to be another country that will be faced with a similar choice in six months. We also see what this understanding of democracy is doing in a less-developed country like the Philippines, which elected a madman as president. 

Put another way, “majoritarian democracy” is winning out all around. The response to those who oppose this kind of “democracy” also resonates with the masses. “What’s the matter? Don’t you respect the will of the majority?” is a standard remark in such cases.  

For those who say this it’s a simple question of “contra factum non valet argumentum.” In other words, “you can’t argue with the facts.” The fact is that the ballot box has produced a definite result and that is all that matters. 

The logic is linear and free of subtleties. Arguing that democracy is based on rules such as the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly; that it demands respect for minority rights; that it does not give the winner of an election the right to dismantle the country’s political system in order to serve specific ideological interests fall on deaf ears.

Turkey provides one of the best examples of this trend. We are moving towards a system where the president is all powerful and inculpable. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım believes this system is the only one that will prevent the country from falling apart. 

We do not have to stretch our imagination, though, to understand how a president vested with absolute powers hopes to maintain the “unity” that Yıldırım is talking about. 

This can’t be anything but uncompromising iron-fisted rule that also suits the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has thrown its lot in with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on this score. 

There is, however, very little historic evidence to prove that those who rule over such a system ultimately succeed in fulfilling the promises they made to the masses that brought them to power. 

It is almost a tragic certainty, for example, that those in “little America” who opted for Trump, will not be better off under his presidency. Having been blinded by his demagoguery, they have chosen to overlook what he really represents in the grand scheme of things.

The same can be said for Turkey if it is transformed into an executive presidency that has no control mechanisms, which appears likely now that the AKP and MHP have joined forces. If those who support this system believe it will produce the stability they desire, they will discover soon enough how they have deluded themselves.

Turkey, in many ways like the U.S., is too heterogeneously complex a country for this to happen. As matters stand we already have a de facto executive presidency and the situation as far as stability is concerned is getting worse, not better. Making what we already have into a de jure system will not change much.

The simple fact is that our republic, as we have come to know it, is being dismantled in the name of an idea whose chances of failing far exceeds its chance of success. It seems though that nations, like individuals, can be driven blindly into committing mistakes they will eventually regret.

It all depends on how long those who have allowed themselves to be driven down blind allies realize that they have merely been used to serve specific interests, which have little to do with their own interests.

Modern European history provides the best example of the damage that can be done until this realization eventually dawns. For our own sake all we can do is hope that our country does not emulate the dark days of Europe.