America got lucky in the 2020 presidential election after reaching a turning point and rescuing herself from the brink of collapsing into the hands of the tyrannical leadership of a populist leader, by electing Joseph R. Biden-JRB, the 46thPresident of the United States, henceforth, saving her oldest democracy and its institutions from being hijacked by Donald Trump and his cronies who defy the democratic politics by clothing in populism robe to rob the democratic governments.
By refusing populism, the public decided to take the responsibility of their government into its own hands, from falling into a dangerous populist leader.
Populism is such a dangerous ideology that it has the potential to push the countries to the brink of collapse that could lead to more disasters around the world.
The problem is that most populist leaders are incompetent and have no true interests in the affairs of the governments rather than using populism as an ideology to pursue their self-interest of using power for the benefit of the few.
Populism: Donald Trump, Who Championed the Dangerous Ideology
A populist leader is a person, especially a politician, who strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel their concerns are disregarded by the established elite groups.
Donald Trump played a plain folks tactics of defying political correctness, using derogatory and bombastic language to lure people that he thinks like them, one of them, and an outsider who promised to go to Washington to drain the swamp, meaning to curb Washington’s bureaucracy and corruption.
Be that as it may, the problem was that as a populist he was, so as the notorious character with an attitude that is shared by all populist leaders – a corrupt and antidemocratic person. As a result, he brought to Washington a bandwagon of corrupt friends who together created, widened, and deepened the swamp that never existed before.
So, if populist leaders exist to serve only their interest and that of faction groups, they aren’t popular for any good to the society and they should be regarded as and known as “notorious leaders” to give an open and clear understanding of who they really are as characterized by their words and deeds, by their defiance of the democratic norms, and the rule of law. They are corrupt, power manipulators who silence most people in the society, elevating faction groups at the expense of others who are oppressed and exploited.
Populism: An Ideology that Can Choke the World
The number of populist leaders around the world increased sharply from 2001 to 2019. Recently, the four most populous democracies in the world have fallen under the rule of a populist leader: Narendra Modi in India, Donald Trump in the United States, Joko Widodo in Indonesia, and Bolsonaro in Brazil.
To highlight examples to give a glimpse of how politics can be a mission with hidden agendas more than a vision with open and clear goals, Donald Trump 2016 run for president with a platform of MAGA – Make America Great Again, and America First, getting lots of cheers running behind these catchy phrases.
The two phrases turned out that, were embedded with a hidden agenda of divide and rule, of making certain groups in American society stand out at the expense of others. It was never about putting the county first, but to put the wealthy and connected or the white supremacy he empowered to cause division and racial tension, reverting the country to the old days of slavery and Jim Crow suppression that led the country into chaos against itself, with one another, and by the outside world.
The evocation of racial tensions was unprecedented, causing deadly streets protests and riots never seen in recent memories.
Protests intensified domestically and around the world during Donald Trump’s administration because of his unpresidential behaviors-from Minnesota after the racially motivated killing of George Floyd, to Portland, to Michigan, to Missouri, to Virginia, and many cities around the country and across the world.
The America First never intended to put the country first. If so, it would have addressed all the needs of the country’s men and women first, but instead, it was advocating for division in society.
It created new and magnified the old sets of standards of treatments that were discriminatory and exploitative, intensifying and amplifying the systemic injustices and practices, including the killing of Black people by white police officers.
Executive orders and directives executed to the extent of abusing the power of the president’s office, deregulating the crucial laws of businesses and industrial practices that polluted water and air, that clean water and clean air was not important for public health as it was for the corporations’ profits.
And then, there was the infamous Zero-Tolerance Immigration policy and the Southern Border Wall war that caused the immigration crisis of the 21st century, leading to the violation of human rights and abuse of women and children of the highest magnitude-snatching young children and nursing babies from their mothers, separating them from their families, became a new normal under his administration.
Saving the World from Tyranny: Global Populus has a Responsibility
If we must save and serve democracy, we must paint the true picture of those who hijack governments in the name of populism. But also, we must be wise in electing our leaders and hold them accountable; otherwise, we will be ruled by fools who will drag us into the darkness where democracy dies. Plato demonstrated that
“If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.”
For political systems to function properly and for governments to govern effectively, the field of political science be regarded and treated as a field of professionalism that can produce people to run the governments and govern and lead effectively.
Thus, an incompetent and incapable person must not be a politician on the power of his money overnight.
Simply put it this way, being a public speaker should not be the major qualification to become a politician.
Today, Congress has a fight within and among its members displaying unprofessional behaviors in public that warranted for lack of experience and knowledge of political science professionalism and how it applied in the governments’ affairs.
Being a populist leader in the first world did indeed get out of the domestic borders and into the outside world, for emulating the first world seemed to be the right thing to do.
Reflecting on the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency as a populist leader, or a notorious leader, all he brought to the public was chaos and frightening conclusions.
His administration suffered staff turnover that was alarming and hideous, but also the disturbing elements of unconventional leadership qualities and lack of discipline at the presidency’s office.
It is distraught and sorrowful to think that there is success in leading in chaos by notorious leaders where tremendous power can be exercised to make people’s lives miserable
In the end, the notorious leader could not control or contain himself. His inspired division through praising and empowering faction groups led to January 6, 2021, Capitol Hill attack with yet another big lie, “StopTheSteal,” attacking democracy at its core while Congress was in session to certify a democratic election.
He orchestrated the attack with the intent to reverse the election outcome, yet when he failed, the temporary abandonment and condemnations were all but fake to save face while those he lured to follow him are left in legal trouble, and some in jail.
Yet, Donald Trump still refuses to believe that he lost the elections, continues bragging the claim that the election was stolen from him, a big lie that has left American society divided and confused.
While he knows leaving Americans in such a state of mind will make them doubt the truth, in his farewell address, he gave what populists are known for, rhetorical words that have no weight or substance. Typical of notorious leaders who say things they don’t practice, “…America had given me so much, I wanted to give something back….”
Give something back? Was it the taxes he evaded and never allowed his tax returns known in public?
Or is it the $1.9 trillion tax cuts he gave to the corporations and the rich like himself who pay little or no taxes but get tax cuts at the expense of the taxpayer working class?
Democracy cannot withstand or survive in the hands of populist leaders, yet Donald Trump is luring the public again that he will run 2024.
India’s Populism: Dangerous Ideology Going Global
Simply, the increasing threat to democracy around the world is led by the raising of the undemocratic populist movements around the world who have figured out the ways to penetrate the government of the people and use it against them.
India is the world’s largest democratic society and has also fallen into the hands of a populist leader, Narendra Modi. His government is engaged in eroding the free democracy and its institutions, making the country an electoral autocracy. Modi’s authoritarian rule is violating the liberal democratic norms; instead, his regime engaged in harassing and cracking down on freedom of speech, press, and media.
Recently Modi’s regime cracked down on hundreds of NGOs and barred foreign funds to extend his popular regime.
Tanzania’s Populist Leader John Magufuli Robbed the Country
Tanzania fell into the hands of populist leader John Magufuli, the 5th president of the United Republic of Tanzania, who stole the election from the opposition party of CHEDEMA twice. The politics of Tanzania takes place in a structure of a unitary presidential republic, whereby the president of Tanzania is both head of state and head of government. Presidential power is exercised by the government, the legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament and the party system is dominated by the ruling CCM.
The government machinery was used to harass and crackdown on oppositions and anyone opposing him; people in business were hijacked, extorted, tortured, killed, and some disappeared without a trace.
Elections in 2020 were accompanied by fraudulent irregularities and voter suppression, intimidation of the opposition party, and instilling fear in those who dared to challenge or question him.
Tanzania under Magufuli was the only country in the world to openly deny the existence of the coronavirus disease, putting over 58 million Tanzanians at health risk by downplaying the dangers coronavirus causes.
Magufuli himself did not survive to serve his second term of a stolen election, as he died a sudden and controversial death on March 17, 2021. He ruled for five years and five months with false hopes, sorrow, and fear.
If Tanzania got lucky following the March 2021 death of John Magufuli under mysterious conditions remains to be seen, but it is also up to the people of Tanzania to come to terms on how they want to be governed.
Once we allow a bad leader into power, the first thing they do is hold the government and its people, hostage, by using the government machinery to silence, control, and instill fear.
In a nutshell, populist leaders and the movements they lead are motivated and dominated by antagonistic characteristics that intend to divide and conquer for the benefit of the faction groups.
It’s fascism clothed as a populist movement pretending to be against liberals and political elites, but in reality, they are fascist, and we should be aware and worry about those behaviors.
They are unethical, lack integrity and moral compass to lead people or countries with motives of power consolidation and exploitation, and they do so very well by defying and destroying the democratic norms and institutions.
Adveline J. Minja is a lifelong educator and a die-hard political scientist. She holds two professional careers. She has been working in the field of education for over 23 years in all settings-private and public, as well as working in the government.
Her philosophy about life is based on her beliefs that, we as people, learn from one another and understand better when we are engaged in exploring, discovering, and experiencing life together, influencing one another with our knowledge, ability, creativity, attitude, and even shaping our characters.
She thrives in knowledge seeking and sharing.
She holds the belief that as humans we have more in common than what distinguishes us.
She aspires to the societal norms and practices that bring shared common good and desired common goals-freedoms, democracy, and social liberties.