As stated by Wikipedia, Populism is ‘a mode of political communication that appeals to the “common man,” often contrasted with the enemy of the “privileged elite.”‘ In other words, populism is a style or strategy used by politicians to appeal to the majority of the population, by addressing significant grievances in society and broadening their demographic. An accessible example is UKIP; by utilising the concern of immigration throughout the UK, the party were able to advocate the Vote Leave campaign and succeed in the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. There is growing debate as to whether US President Donald Trump is a Populist: with his inclusive attitude to a common goal to “make America great again” juxtaposed with his extreme anti- immigration, low taxation and deregulation, it blurs the lines between Trump’s populist and elitist essence.
The famous line “make America great again” gave the common voter a buzz. Fuelled by the significant patriotism in the USA, this tagline resonated heavily with the common man and essentially won Trump the election. In my opinion, this phrase is one of the greatest examples of populist propaganda in recent years. Through the vague language, the approach to making America great is malleable and morphs to suit each voter accordingly, without actually unveiling Trump’s approach to the endeavour. Greatness differs from person to person, but manages to blur the lines between each minority group and create a society with an inclusive façade. I am sure that when just under 30% of Hispanic voters voted for Trump, they did not anticipate the President to attempt to build a wall between the US and Mexico. That’s just the genius of it; no one actually knew how Trump would make America great again, but still believed he would.
At a glance, Trump seems to favour the social elite with significant tax cuts and deregulation policies. This being said, other groups in society have been addressed amongst Trump’s policies through the protection for entitlements for the elderly and a claimed promise of a free- market system to universal healthcare in response to repealing Obamacare. Instead of taking a traditional populist approach by being a centrist solution to popular grievances, Trump has taken extreme pledges to appeal to a broad range of societal groups, to once again give a populist façade. The reality is that it is near impossible to appease both the working class and elite simultaneously and completely, especially with harshly Conservative policies the Republican Party present
Moreover, it cannot be ignored that Trump did not actually gain the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. This arouses the debate whether Trump attempted populism and abandoned it when he did not obtain support from the majority, or whether he never had the intention of appealing to the “common man” in the first place.
To conclude: Trump is not a populist and he never was. The endorsement of hatred from celebrities, demonstrations throughout the world against his Presidency, it seems to me he has more enemies than friends. Furthermore, it is one thing making claims and advocating the interests of the working class, but has the President actually done anything to help? With his tactical “make America great again”, Trump has injected the West with an elitist hunger, far from populism.