The weakness of populism

  • Italiano

The network feeds the myth of direct democracy. I can be informed, share, participate, comment. Everything in real time, all directly. So why can’t I also decide, directly? Especially – and here comes the variable crisis – if those who do it for me demonstrate, in my opinion, of not being able to. Especially if “stealing” or wasting my money. Especially if they have to participate to more than 30 European summits to come to an important decision. There are potentially infinite “especiallys”: starting from the savvy critic to indignation, until getting of course to populism. But that is not the only possible landing place, it is not an inevitable condemnation. It becomes such if all other “especiallys” will not be answered with authority by the representative democracy. Surpassing its limits of decision and vision, in the case of the European Union. Changing itself starting “especially” from its historical flaws, in the case of Italian democracy.

One of the defects to be overcome is, for example, the “instinctive shortcut”. Which in this case is twofold. On the one hand, there is the closure: since participation has also, as a side effect, populism, the choice is to discourage it or even eliminate it. On the other hand, there is the emulation: as populism today works in terms of consensus and basically does not involve too much effort to understand, the choice is to imitate tones and often arguments. Both reactions, in truth, denote weakness. Because who chooses closure is afraid of confrontation and contamination. And who attacks, instead, mystifies, is not solid in his own identity.

Moreover, both reactions are the negation of the deeper essence of democracy, which is open and has an unquestionable ideal foundation. The point, therefore, is how to enhance the participation in this revolution, make it the tool to “go along, go away”, but without the illusion of direct democracy.

The Italian case, for once, in my opinion could be an example to open an optimistic discussion in Europe. Among the new political movements of the major EU countries that share a radical critique of the party system, the “Movimento 5 Stelle” was the first one, in order of time, that rose to prominence thanks to a stunning electoral performance. The network was undoubtedly the tool that made possible that 25% otherwise unimaginable in the political processes prior to the digital revolution, and in the absence of the apparatus on which Berlusconi was able to leverage in 1994.

Albeit with some differences, other European movements gradually grown in recent years have used the network as a platform of reference and as the main vehicle to share their ideas. What differentiates today M5S from others – I think France or Great Britain, first – is its full participation in the system of representative democracy. What it would once have been called the “institutionalization”.

Therefore – despite knowing the forces of the M5S and having often experienced the manner in which it organized the opposition to my government with unease, even personal – I believe that the full citizenship of the Movimento in our circuit is a success of the institutional system. Here the Parliament and the institutions won, not the anger more or less organized in protest out of the same institutions. In Italy,democracy has been able to incorporate the expression of discomfort and critique, even radical, to the system, without changing it.

Adapted from “Andare insieme, andare lontano”

Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo

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