Trump, over and over again

The election of Donald Trump in the US continues to have an impact on the European intellectual debate. On The Guardian, Zoe Williams analyses the successes of Trump and the Brexit movement through the lenses of the concept of nostalgia. Williams claims that when nostalgia turns into a political approach it poisons rational public debate. The paradox of nostalgia relies in the fact that it brings to the fore of current public debates contextual elements of the past, at the expense of much more important short term memories. On EurActiv, an extensive number of thinkers – among whom Philippe van Parijs, Roberto Saviano and Daniel Cohn-Bendit – co-signed an editorial piece which calls for an awakening of the European citizenry in the face of Trump’s election and Brexit. The authors claim that citizens have to take back control over their security, politically and financially. More specifically, they suggest among others an extended Erasmus exchange program for middle schools, the doubling of the Juncker investment plan and the launch of transnational lists for the forthcoming European elections. On The New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote a vehement editorial where he blasts Donald Trump as a “pathological liar” who surrounds himself with racists, and conspiracy theorists. Krugman asks readers not lose faith, and calls for true patriots to fight for democracy over the next months.

Fighting or seizing populism?

John Freedland, on The Guardian, argues that in order to face the right wing populist threat, the democratic left needs to learn to play the rules of game. Freedland’s argument is that if Brexiteers and Trumpists had lost the UK referendum and the US elections respectively, they would now fiercely oppose governmental decisions. Freedland consequently calls for the left to fight for what it believes in instead of being passive onlookers of how conservatives ruin their countries. On The Independent, Fabio Mattioli argues that, in the same way “actually existing socialism” historically triggered the establishment of a welfare state within capitalist economies, today the rise of populist forces with nationalist tendencies might lead to a rethinking of neo-liberal policies. In what could be described as a counterintuitive intellectual exercise, on openDemocracy Chantal Mouffe explains why we should consider the rise of populist forces as a healing to our free falling democratic systems. Mouffe argues that both, right-wing and left-wing populist movements are a reaction to specific political transformations. In the first place, populism is a reaction to what she dubs “post-politics”, a situation where the contours between the institutional left and right are blurred. Secondly, and linked to the foregoing, Mouffe points to the collapse of the “healthy tension” between the liberal and democratic political traditions. The former was pushing for the value of “freedom”, whereas the latter put forward the logic of “equality”. According to Mouffe, this tension was constitutive of the so called liberal-democratic order. The author considers the current state of things a necessary “populist moment”, that can re-establish the constitutive tensions of liberal-democracy. However, Mouffe warns that the success of right-wing populist parties and movements must be countered by left-wing populist narratives and political action.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC Remko Tanis

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