Thursday, 27 February 2020

Compassion Separates Rational Liberals From Populist Libertarians

For those driven to despair by the rise of Brexit Johnson (or Trump or any of the other right wing demagogues), "How to Beat a Populist" promises some relief. We know that the populist, libertarian message is emotional, nationalistic, angry, false and divisive. We know that rational argument seems a waste of time and we shouldn't allow ourselves to "get dragged down to their level", but with the populists dominating the political scene it's hard to know what else to actually do.

Enter Larry Diamond, from Stanford University, jangling a bunch of keys that might just unlock a more rational future.  Here's a flavour of what to Do:
  • Pursue an inclusive strategy - connect with the doubters among the populist support base
  • Appeal to their interests and positive values
  • Stick to liberal principles and behaviour
  • Show humility, empathy - even love - understand why they answered the siren song of illiberal populism, and what positive, unifying messages or policies would address those anxieties
  • Focus on positive, practical, evidence/issues-based policies that expose/exploit the populist's failings and vulnerabilities
  • Offer a liberal, democratic vision for unifying pride in the country (patriotism, not nationalism)
  • Offer hope and excitement for an optimistic vision of a better future 
  • Find lively and creative ways to communicate a message of hope, inspiration, and concrete policy alternatives with passion and conviction
Here's a flavour of what to avoid:

  • writing off anyone who voted for the populist as or "deplorable” 
  • questioning the morals or motives of populist sympathizers
  • tit-for-tat 'slugfests'
  • the muck of ridicule, invective or verbal abuse.  
  • ideological or 'radical' policy proposals 
  • looking backwards
  • being boring
  • falsehood. 
Overall, the message I'm getting is to be compassionate. At the end of the day, everyone is let down by a populist leader. Some were duped into believing, some knowingly believed and others never  believed and even vigorously opposed, but it's kind of irrelevant to the future - the "Now What?"  We are all victims, and we must club together to dig our way out of the populist hole.

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