Milei and the anger that drives global national populism | International
Like an echo, the roar of anger that gives wings to the standard-bearers of national-populist political projects appears, similarly, in different corners of the planet. Javier Milei is the umpteenth case of a broad wave - in which the episodes of Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro and Meloni stand out - which is a total amendment to the political system as a popular rejection of all traditional options. The echo effect lies in the many similarities between different elements of the reactionary international. But this does not exclude that, at the same time, there are some significant differences in the causes of their success and in the proposals.
Due to personal characteristics and political approaches, Milei is a hyperbolic figure, even within the framework of the radical world of the reactionary international, and his victory causes special horror and disbelief in the ranks of progressives and moderate liberals. It is not for less. His proposals are of exceptional extremism, clearly devoid of solid intellectual foundations, threateningly retrograde in their conservatism and furthermore promoted by a leader whose manners do not exude the calm desirable in a leader.
However, the hyperbole of Milei's chainsaw connects with the spirit of rejection of what is established typical of the national-populist international. With the United Kingdom that voted for Brexit against the position of the main parties, the employers, the unions and in which “fuck the experts” dominated; with the United States conquered by Trump and his mantra of “draining the swamp”; with Italy governed today by the only party in the chamber that did not support the Government of national unity during the pandemic - the far-right Brothers of Italy -, which in that legislature had only 4% of the votes, which took advantage of that solitary opposition to shoot against everything and everyone and then it became the first party in the country; with the Brazil that supported Bolsonaro, who was not a representative of any of the country's main parties.
It is the popular spirit of the total amendment to a political system supported by the anger of citizens who feel that this does not serve them, does not protect them, does not work for them, that it is biased and rotten. This deep frustration fuels the will for radical change and elevates outsiders who preach a mix populist demonization of caste, nationalism, conservatism, historical revisionism, nostalgia for a supposedly better past ―make America great, again; regain supposedly lost control in the United Kingdom; the desert that began with democracy in Argentina, etc.―.
Skilled leaders add gasoline to that fire by taking advantage of the possibilities of modern times, social networks today, and soon, increasingly, artificial intelligence will have to be feared. Politics is taken to the emotional terrain, and once there, rationality hardly prevails.
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But that common root should not blur the differences. This frustration is fueled, depending on the case, by resentment due to national or global causes in different proportions. In some countries, the former predominate by far. In others, the latter seem to be more relevant.
In the case of Argentina, it is evident that Milei's victory is a total rejection of the management of Kirchnerist Peronism. Similarly, Bolsonaro's success was fueled by deep-rooted anti-PTism (PT, party of Lula and Rousseff). In these cases, the progressive proposals lost largely due to their own failures, either due to economic efforts with disastrous results, or due to the long shadow of corruption that spread over them, rather than due to a national desire for closure in the face of a world that problems matter.
In other cases, the national-populist rise responds to a greater extent to global phenomena, to a protectionist instinct in the face of global vicissitudes, the developments of an interconnected world, the harmful collateral effects of a certain type of free trade, migratory movements, information technologies. that some benefit while harming others, climate change and its challenges. In this section too, social democracy has paid for past mistakes, its adherence for a long period to values with a liberal flavor, which made it little distinguishable from the moderate right. But in this case a general future of the world that is not the direct responsibility of the left seems to have more influence. Trump, Orbán or Brexit fit very well into this scheme in which the rejection of what comes from outside has enormous weight and endorses protectionist, nationalist, conservative proposals, a yearning for a return to the past.
Depending on what the main driving force is, for example, the positions on free trade, immigration or foreign policy may be different, or in any case have more or less weight in the approach.
Other differences intrinsic to the national-populist rise concern the origin of the standard-bearer. In some cases - like Milei or Bolsonaro - it is about outsiders totals that achieve power. In others, they are traditional parties that lean towards that type of ideology - republicans in the US and tories in the United Kingdom-.
The two different scenarios have different implications - the brakes that, despite a turn, a traditional party, with a long history, in which moderates continue to militate, can continue to apply, and the unleashed situation of those who are not bridled in them -, thus as, of course, are the political strength they have in Parliament - absolute majorities or the need to negotiate - and the democratic quality of the countries in which they achieve power.
The national-populist wave is by no means invincible, and it suffers setbacks. Recently, in Poland or Spain. A pattern can be seen in which his poor management results are sanctioned at the polls, preventing the renewal of mandates wherever democracy remains sufficiently vigorous, as in the United States (Trump's defeat); Brazil (defeat of Bolsonaro) or Poland itself (defeat of PiS). The case of Hungary exemplifies the risks of the circumstances in which the national-populist proposal manages to erode democratic quality, enough to almost suffocate real options for change (the OCSE considered that the last elections in Hungary were free, but not fair).
Unfortunately, as the most respected international studies on the subject agree, the quality of democracy is declining in many places in the world.
The traditional conservative right, in the midst of a panic crisis due to the rise of radical national-populist proposals that annihilate them (France, Italy) or compress their space in a way that makes it impossible for them to govern without them, have increasingly decided to cooperate with the radicals or even buy their arguments. History will judge them for it.
The left-wing social democrats and liberals, for their part, should reason thoroughly. Not only about the global problems that give wings to the ultras and offer answers in the key of social protection (“The Europe that protects,” Macron proclaimed; “providing security,” Sánchez pointed out in his investiture speech). This is correct and essential. But it is necessary to analyze in more depth the entire spectrum of actions and failures that, from the areas of moderation and progressivism, have facilitated the phenomenon of the national-populist wave in the Western Hemisphere, a very serious danger for the maintenance of fundamental rights and, in some cases, the most basic democratic values. Milei's case, probably the most radical of all, shows that its development can lead to unimaginable and explosive places.
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