Populism and Demagogy I
By Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss
Published January 30, 2017
Any resemblance to what we are living is not coincidence
2,400 years ago, Aristotle described demagoguery, first cousin of what today is identified as populism, and defined the demagogue as “flatterer of the people” and demagogy as “corrupt or degenerate form of democracy that leads to the institution of a tyrannical government of the lower classes or, more often, of many or of some who govern in the name of the people.” The preacher philosopher, one of the fathers of our western civilization, pointed out that when popular law is subordinated to the desire of many, whom he defines as the poor, demagogues arise “that flatter citizens, give utmost importance to their feelings and orient the political action in function of the same ones “. Together with Plato, he affirmed that when an extreme crisis arises, demagoguery annuls the opposition and leads to an authoritarian or tyrannical regime that assumes all power in the name of the people. Aristotle concludes that demagogy is the corruption of the republic. Clearer impossible. In pejorative terms, the candidate who offers things that he cannot or does not want to fulfill once he reaches the government is called a demagogue.
It is easier to speak of populism than to try to define it or to inquire about who coined the word or where it was first given. Why? Because the specialists have not agreed on these issues and it is also not intended to deal with such matters here with an orthodoxy or purism that are not relevant. We are going to settle for describing this phenomenon, which we have suffered so much Venezuelans, and which now seems to be settling in North America and threatens to spread to other parts of the globe, being therefore a hot topic that, according to the DRAE (now DILE) Is the “political tendency that tries to attract to the popular classes”. On the other hand, there are those who argue that it was in Tsarist Russia, shortly before the Soviet revolution, that anti-tsarist, non-Marxist, narodnik groups were the first to be called populists, by their movement known as narodnichestvo, or “going towards the people “. Does it mean that before these groups populism did not exist? At all, the forms that coincide with populism, even if they were not so called, are of ancient date and rulers who used populist methods have existed in all ages.
The populist ruler bases his success on his gift of communication, is aware of his ability to stir large crowds, is irreverent, authoritarian, impudent and knows how to energetic masses with his verb, always targeting the most numerous sector of the electorate, the one that decides with his vote to the winner of the elections. Consequently, the populist learns quickly to polarize its governed, to create hatred between them and to invent enemies to those who blames of its errors and omissions, which allows him to govern long time even doing bad. Populism is easily implemented in countries where there is a fertile ground for it, places where a broad social stratum has been depleted by the exhaustion of the system, usually bipartisan, where traditional parties have already worn away and lost that angel who they had in their beginnings. This we know of leftovers in Venezuela, but now it seems that they will experience it in the United States, where the results of the last elections showed clearly that the bipartisanship is quite battered, since in both parties emerged non-traditional candidates that were sold as Antisystem, which presumes the existence of an abandoned and resentful mass in the country of the north. Many saw in Sanders and in Trump a messiah, a savior who could take them from below, and did not hesitate to follow them and support them with their vows, being victorious, as we know, Donald Trump, who now has the table served to implant populism, With all its mechanisms, agendas and consequences, no less than in the greatest power in the world.
Starting Friday, January 20, 2017, we have begun to see how this is evolving.