I’ve said it over and over: populist politicians from Donald Trump to Marine Le Pen to Frauke Petry to Geert Wilders prey on the very people they purport to help.
They are, for lack of a better descriptor, “false prophets” (incidentally, if you haven’t taken some off the table during this rally because you’re betting on the euphoria to continue based on the assumed success of Trump’s promised tax reform and fiscal stimulus, then you’re likely sitting on “false profits”).
Trump, Le Pen, Petry, and Wilders (I’m not even going to dignify Nigel Farage’s bumbling bullsh*t bombast) have capitalized politically on the fears and collective ignorance of a vulnerable support base.
To be sure, not everyone who exhibits what looks like Islamophobia and/or xenophobia of any kind, is actually a bigot. And that’s precisely my point. Voters in the US and Europe have genuine concerns about their safety and some of those concerns stem from what they perceive to be threats emanating from immigrants (illegal or otherwise). Those voters need two things: 1) reassurances that their concerns are being addressed, and 2) an explanation as to why they shouldn’t project events like the Paris attacks onto entire religions and/or ethnic groups.
What they most assuredly do not need is to be told that they should indeed fear all Muslims or that Mexican immigrants are out to rape them and sell their children drugs.
That’s no more true than saying every chemistry teacher is out to cook blue meth.
Instead of explaining the reality of the situation (that there are bad apples in any bunch), populism anno 2017 chooses instead to perpetuate irrational fears and amplify xenophobia.
Folks like Le Pen and Trump and Wilders know that the most efficient way to exploit these fears for political gain is to tap those voters who are least likely to push back – i.e. to incite a panic among the uneducated who think that because a woman is wearing a burqa she must also be wearing a suicide vest.
Again, they’re preying on people’s ignorance for their own gain.
With this in mind, consider the following from FT who explains how Geert Wilders has managed to corner the market on what we might fairly call “the stupid vote.”
The strongest relationship between the PVV’s vote share and any demographic indicator was with education: the higher the proportion of the population that left the academic system without a degree or higher vocational qualification, the bigger the vote for Mr Wilders.
Unlike the rest of the indicators, such as immigration, this correlation between the PVV’s success and low educational attainment held true across the country, in both rural and urban areas. It was stronger in towns and cities.
Reinforcing the trend is a relatively strong link between university graduates and the level of support for the PVV: the more people with degrees there are in an area, the lower the preference for Mr Wilders’ populist agenda.
The graphic above shows the influence of education in isolation but because of the complex nature of the electorate, education seems to explain only a part of the variance in the PVV vote. In order to explore its full importance, we controlled for other important demographic elements.
Even when age, employment conditions, the rural-urban split, immigration and geography were taken into account, a low level of education remained a strong indicator of PVV success across the Netherlands.
There’s much, much more in the FT post and I encourage you to read it in full.
The takeaway for those who are still buying the bullsh*t that Trump, Wilders, Le Pen, and Petry are pushing, is that you are being exploited.
To drive the point home, here’s something to consider: have a look at the following picture and ask yourself if that looks like someone Donald Trump would be caught dead with under normal circumstances…