From Jeremy Corbyn on the left to Donald Trump on the right, from Bernie Sanders in America to Pablo Iglesias in Spain and Marine Le Pen in France, outsider candidates continue to make waves across the western world. And while these politicians are certainly proposing radical (if not always new) ideas, their different policies only tell half the story for why many have been so successful.
Their popularity can be put down to not just what they are saying, but how they say it. For years the public have been fed media savvy and repetitive candidates, and now they’re tired of it. Watch a political debate. Watch one of the Republican Primary debates, or one of the debates before the UK general election last year. They’re rubbish. They’re dull, samey and often hurt to watch. I’m passionate about politics and the issues being ‘discussed’ – if you can call it that – but even I often struggle to get through the whole debates. It is painfully obvious that the candidates all know what they’ll say on each topic before its even been asked. The pre-prepared lines sound about as authentically human as Priti Patel.
But wait, who’s that? Who’s that scruffy looking bearded pensioner? How did he get on the stage? Who’s that crazy guy with the fake-tan face and the small rodent on his head? They haven’t come off a politician production line, why are they behind a podium? Now you begin to listen to them speak. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges. Sure, their policies don’t all add up or sound realistic. But who cares? When they speak they believe what they say. And, like a mad uncle at Christmas, they say things that nobody else dares to. They bring up the affair your auntie had, or talk about foreign AIDS patients being treated at the tax payer’s expense, or call Mexicans rapists and murderers. They have charisma (well maybe not Jeremy Corbyn), and they get passionate about what they say. Sometimes they say things that are genuinely funny, just watch Donald Trump repeatedly humiliate Jeb(!) Bush in numerous GOP debates and it’s hard not to laugh.
Their personalities also echo what their target voter bases want to see. Take The Donald: A self-made (or so he says, well he’s rich we know that for sure) billionaire businessman who builds Golden towers, has had a string of trophy wives, and rides around in helicopters and private jets. He is American showmanship on steroids – and the voters love it. Or on the left there’s Bernie Sanders: a principled and morally consistent politician who, it has recently emerged, was arrested whilst campaigning for civil rights. These politicians are successful not only because they say what their fans want to hear, but because they are what their fans want to see.
Alas, though these insurgent populists may be soaring now, it looks as though none of them will hold office. In the UK the hugely unrepresentative system of first past the post means Nigel Farage’s UKIP will forever exist in the periphery of British of politics, while Jeremy Corbyn is tanking among the electorate and it seems unlikely he’ll reach the next election. In America Hilary Clinton will almost definitely beat Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination and will probably then go on to beat Donald Trump if he is named as the Republican nominee. In France the Socialists and Republicans will once again team up to keep out Marine Le Pen.
But just because they won’t make it into government doesn’t mean these people haven’t left their mark. They have shown that grassroots movements and radical populism are a force to be reckoned with. And though the establishment will most likely see them off, they should be more than a little scared of the power outsiders can wield.
What do you think?
Do you love or loathe the outsider candidates? Can the establishment stop the flow populism? What’s your opinion on the state of Western politics?
Leave a comment and have your opinion heard.