The Not-So-New Populism
From Denmark to South America, the Right’s nationalist turn began long before Brexit and Trump
Modern right-wing populism set the world ablaze in 2016, with Brexit and Donald Trump’s election. But it didn’t start with Nigel Farage, or with Trump coming down the golden escalator. This political phenomenon has been building for two decades around the globe, and during this time the establishment governments have had many opportunities to squash it by addressing working-class voters’ concerns about government corruption, income inequality, free trade, nation-building, mass immigration, sovereignty, and terrorism.
The political class didn’t address these problems because that would have forced them to compromise their orthodoxy that cultures and people were interchangeable and that people displaced by globalism could merely move away from industrial rust belts and learn new trades. As a result, governments became increasingly removed from the people they governed.
The Hungarian election in 1998 was the first sign that populist-nationalism could become a political force capable not just of mobilizing crowds but also winning elections. Hungarians were suffering through the Socialist Party’s (MSZP) austerity measures, efforts to open Hungary’s market to multinational corporations from the West, a money scandal that led to the indictment of politicians for widespread corruption, and an outbreak of domestic terrorism.