No matter if we are talking about Trump supporters, Sweden Democrats or Britons voting for leaving the EU1 the core nationalistic right wing populists are losers2. Not in the sense that they are bad people. Instead they feel like the current direction society is taking is leaving them and their peers behind. Societal change is scary and they can’t keep up.
Gays are marrying while they can’t be in a happy relationship, muslims are working while they are unemployed or otherwise miserable with their job situation and they think immigrants get free money while they live paycheck to paycheck. They look at an idealization of the privileges their parents had, privileges that are slowly drifting away from them. They conclude that the ones in charge are not addressing their problems, choosing others over them. They are working class. Not used to being on top of the societal ladder, but at least they have had some sense of privilege as white males. Rightly or wrongly they feel that what status they have had in society is slipping away. All around them other disenfranchised groups are rising in status and getting help from society, and because they wrongly look at life as a zero sum game they feel this is at their expense.
When you feel like you are a fringe part of society and no one is listening to you it’s easy to look for something to blame and to look for an easy solution to your problems. Democracy is obviously not working (For you), so a strong ruler with clear goals and an easily definable “other” is a very strong proposition. They are further egged on by a media that’s horrible at portraying what’s actually happening in the world3. A media that’s simultaneously (and often times misguidedly) trying to cover up the background on non native criminals while still managing to make muslim terrorism look like a major risk and making people believe there are forteen times as many muslims in the country as there really are 4.
While I vehemently believe that we should do all possible to hold the extreme right wing parties at bay, I think we also have to listen to their voters. Try empathising with what they are feeling and talk to them, instead of ostracising them because they are afraid for their future. Calling people who disagree with you “hillbillys”, “stupid”, “nazis” or in other ways further disenfranchising them will only further the divide and make them even more sure in their view of the world. Change is scary, and society is quickly morphing into something other than the rose coloured vision they have of the perfect society of yore. Hating them only makes them hate more, even if your sympathy is not enough to teach them to love, maybe it’s enough to help them accept and adapt.
- I hate the term “Brexit”, even worse than that is “Bremain”. Stop using tabloid headlines for serious issues.
- I’m trying to describe the core voters, in Sweden a lot of voters are turning to the Sweden democrats because they are afraid that the current levels of immigration will be too costly for the Swedish public institutions to remain effective. Other parties are quickly running towards limiting immigration, either because they believe that assessment or because they want to stop their voters from leaving for the Sweden Democrats instead. There are probably a bunch of people voting for Britain leaving the EU that has other reasons than the ones described as well.
- Something that’s also paving the way for “alternative non-pc news” that make the astonishing thing of actually making and even worse job of informing people on what happens in the world.
- Those figures are for the US. Swedes only believe there are about 2.5 times as many muslims as there really are (https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/29/todays-key-fact-you-are-probably-wrong-about-almost-everything).
This post has been slightly edited on November 9th 2016 to reflect the American Presidential Election.