Progressives have to stop rolling their eyes at voters

The progressives must understand a cardinal point in politics: the voters are never wrong... showing disdain and a patronising attitude will go a long way to widen this divide further

‘The forgotten will be forgotten no longer’ was an important vow by President Trump during his inauguration speech and it was quite clear who he was talking to. The modern economy has distanced us – and created inequalities – between us
‘The forgotten will be forgotten no longer’ was an important vow by President Trump during his inauguration speech and it was quite clear who he was talking to. The modern economy has distanced us – and created inequalities – between us

The upcoming European elections are an important crossroads for the continent because they will either build the momentum of populists or bring it to a halt. In times like these, elections become much bigger than the vote they represent – almost a philosophical referendum on the future of Europe.

There have been many mistakes in the past. The modern economy has isolated a chunk of our population, with mainstream politicians then trampling over them. This has been a bounty for populists who will say and do whatever is needed to grab power. However, we are also guilty of rolling our eyes at these voters across Europe. They are people in our communities, people who might have abhorrent views on an array of topics but who also have a superficial understanding of them. Rather than help them understand, the default response has been mockery. Let’s make fun of them. Let’s make fun of their Trumpian way of talking, of how they reasoned out Brexit, of their conspiracies and the ‘alternative news’ content they share on social media.

This is a fatal mistake. As I said, most of these people are just average Joes in society. They do not live in a tent in the woods looking for CIA satellites, rather they lead regular lives and have regular jobs. The mainstream politics of Europe must understand that bridging with these people, listening and understanding their concerns, does not mean endorsing them. It does not mean losing one’s principles. Brussels, more often than not, is only capable of talking down to such people and this is wrong.

This is not something strictly related to politics. In Malta, just like the rest of the world, there is a growing number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. If this trend continues, some truly nasty diseases may return to haunt us. However, we need to seek to understand where these parents are coming from. What was the journey that led them to such ill-conceived choices? A lot of states in the US have gone through this and found that outreach programmes – through education and information sessions – can help a great deal. Again, rolling our eyes and mockery does not help.

We live in a very divided time. As the world wide web reaches its 30th year, there is a lot to say about how the internet has further divided societies rather than helped them move forward together. It is very easy to create barriers on social media and to be entrenched in the ideology bubble that does not allow users to be exposed to differing opinions. Showing disdain and a patronising attitude will go a long way to widen this divide further.

‘The forgotten will be forgotten no longer’ was an important vow by President Trump during his inauguration speech and it was quite clear who he was talking to. The modern economy has distanced us – and created inequalities – between us. The haves and the have-nots have increased and we’re experiencing this throughout Europe. Which is why the true progressives of Europe must step up their game in reaching out to those who, today, are seen as beneath them.

If this doesn’t happen we’ll continue to see more voter discontent and more extreme views. The progressives must understand a cardinal point in politics: the voters are never wrong and their concerns, even if manifested in abnormal ways, are still true and real.

More in Blogs