Many questions have been asked about the reasons behind #Brexit, about why Trump made it into oval office, the recent surge in right-wing political power in Europe, and I think the answers tend to be wrong. I think the answer to why these decisions were taken is really simple: Because their right-wing politicians provide the most convenient answer. And that is dangerous. Let me elaborate.
Brexit happened because many British were unhappy about the status quo, about their current situation. Those in power, Cameron etc, did not provide an answer to the worries of these people. However, Farage and co. claimed they did. The answer that people like Farage and the likes gave was to point fingers: at migrants, at the European Union, specifically: at someone else. And this is the most convenient answer. When in trouble, simply point the finger at someone else.
Finger-pointing has been one of the oldest and most acclaimed strategies to get someone on your side. Blame others, and you are sure to find support. Hitler has used to this strategy to an extend that it completely destroyed Europe within a decade. Many others followed suit.
In effect, one can use this finger-pointing strategy for basically everything. The person to be convinced does not even need to be in a bad state. It is simply enough that this person is unhappy with something, and once someone gives that person a target to point the anger at then the Harmonica theme song from Once Upon A Time In The West starts playing.
Take Trump as an example. These days many write that Trump was voted into office because he is not part of the political elite. This is simply plain wrong. Yes, it is right that he hasn’t held a political position. But he is stupidly rich, and a guy like that has certainly been pulling strings behind the scenes for the past years if not decades. All wealthy people are somewhat tied to politics. It is a huge mistake to believe otherwise. He is part of the elite. Not the intellectual elite, but certainly the political elite.
The problem is that when running for presidency, Clinton simply gave the same proposals that have been applied during the past years. She tried to be centre and liberal, and when you are that then you try to make it right for everyone. Trump gave new answers by pointing fingers. He said Mexicans and immigrants are the problem. So is Islam. He polarized. He gave easy answers to the common fears of people. This is something that Clinton did not. Clinton gave, more or less, the status quo. Or at least this is how it was perceived by everyone.
What is the problem with this polarization? Simple, it feeds on worries, hatred and the claim that everything is the fault of others. This is what the strategy behind Brexit consisted of, it was Donald Trump’s strategy to get into oval office, it is Le Pen’s strategy to get voted into office in France and, in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ hope to win the elections. In Germany it is more and more the AfD’s approach to gain grounds, and in Austria it is Christian Strache’s means to collect votes. In Europe, all right-wing political parties are using this approach and they are gaining ground, especially in Poland, France, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Hungary and Austria.
Do not be fooled: These right-wing parties can only gain grounds – and are continuing to gain grounds – because they rely on polarization and finger-pointing; on cheap, unfounded ideas BUT they are at the same time easy to believe. And these parties will gain grounds as long as the established parties do not seem to provide alternatives to the status quo or clear answers to the concerns or uncertainty of society. And the reason is simple: people prefer to believe the simple answers that blame someone else. And it seems that many voters nowadays approve that a bit of racism is fine if one feels that e.g. these immigrants bring Islamism, unemployment or drugs with them that destroys the country. We need solid arguments to show that this easy answer is the wrong one.
Thus, what moderate politicians need to do is start to provide clear answers to the concerns of citizens, dismiss the radical ideas of others not as mischief or propaganda but with simple counter-arguments that show that these right-wing ideas are only radical, and there is nothing more behind them. Only then can we steer back from the radicalization of Europe, and the world.