Stop blaming ‘populism’ for everything

The word “populism” is being used to explain almost every trend or event of 2016, including Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as America’s next President, and shifts in French, German, Italian, Dutch, and Austrian politics. …

Reducing everything to “populism” is ignoring the real issues that motivate people. To analyze Brexiteers by only their socio-economic status (as the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation did) or their race/ethnicity (as America’s National Public Radio did) is a self-fulfilling prophecy for self-interested reasons. In social scientific terms, it is also a bivariate fallacy – looking at only one relationship without controlling for others. Voters always divide socio-economically and ethnically; finding such a divide is unprofound and misleading, unless one controls for political and cultural divisions that might be larger than, or the cause of, any ethnic or socio-economic division. Most analysts never controlled for anything else when they went looking for ethnic or socio-economic explanations for the votes of 2016; hence, they found only ethnic or socio-economic explanations. CONT.

Bruce Newsome, Berkeley