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Coronavirus Has Turned the Tide on Populism

The current pandemic has highlighted the limitations of populist governments across the West…

Submitted by InfoBrics, authored by Johanna Ross, journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland…

In 2019, a paper was published by the BMJ entitled ‘Assessing global preparedness for a global pandemic’. Its conclusions: that the western developed world, including the US and the UK, were amongst the best prepared for a mass viral outbreak of the kind we are experiencing now. The reality: their predictions couldn’t have been less helpful in preparing us for the hellish times which lay ahead.

It’s no secret that America and Britain have fared particularly badly in this pandemic, with 106,130 and 38,429 deaths respectively to date, claiming first and second position in the death toll table. By contrast, governments which were supposed to be the most ill-equipped for an epidemic, like many countries of Africa, are managing remarkably well to date, with far fewer deaths. Take Senegal for example, which has only 30 recorded deaths out of a population of 16 million. This has been put down to their rapid response to the outbreak, involving the immediate closing of borders and an effective programme of contact tracing. Britain, on the other hand, is only now figuring out its ‘track and trace’ system, and its borders are still open.  It hasn’t even begun to enforce a 14 day quarantine for incomers, something which has been operational in other parts of the globe for months now. In short, the basics have not been addressed.

The US is also succumbing dreadfully to the virus, after a delayed response from President Trump, who refused for some time to accept the pandemic was real, claiming that coronavirus was just like flu. Since then, he has failed abysmally at leading his country through the crisis; even at one point, during one of his typically muddled and confused addresses implying that people could ingest disinfectant to combat the disease.  Let’s face it: Trump isn’t remotely interested in public health. His game is business, nowhere in the ‘Art of the Deal’ does it speak about preparing for public health crises. His goal all along has been to try to save the economy. Unfortunately, by delaying lockdown, many more lives have been lost than need have been.

Europe’s response has been patchy, with markedly different statistics between neighbouring states.  Merkel’s Germany has had a far better pandemic than Salvini’s Italy, for example. And here it’s worth asking ourselves if indeed there is a pattern emerging: is it the case that western populist governments have struggled more during this crisis than others? And why?

The populist governments of Trump, Johnson and Salvini all have something in common, and I’m not just talking about their anti-immigration stance or euro-scepticism. Although they are all about the idea of the nation state, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of managing a public health crisis, they’re a disaster. Just look at the social unrest in all three countries at present. In the US, the motivation for recent demonstrations has of course been the murder of George Floyd, but tied up with this is the issue of Covid-19.  Coronavirus has affected african americans more than any other sector of the population, with reports they are dying at three times the rate of those of white ethnicity in the States.

Tensions have also reached boiling point in the UK.  The epidemic has targeted the most vulnerable in British society – the elderly, and the poor, along with BAME communities. An underfunded NHS together with a malnourished, poverty-stricken population has been no match for this ruthless disease. The last straw for a nation exhausted after 10 weeks of lockdown was seeing Boris Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings breach lockdown regulations and get off scot-free. The Prime Minister, seemingly oblivious to the strife he has caused, has lost support from his party, voters and even the right-wing press. The incident won’t be forgotten any time soon. For many it epitomizes the arrogance of this administration.

In Italy as well, things have reached fever-pitch.  Even right-wingers have been out on the streets recently protesting against the government’s handling of the crisis. Thousands of businesses have been forced to shut across the country, leaving families without income for months on end. There have been reports of people with nothing to eat. As a result, the anti-fascist ‘Sardines’ movement has gone from strength to strength, hoping to unseat Salvini at the next election.

This pandemic has exposed the phenomenon that is populism for what it is. By its very nature, it is anti-establishment and rejects traditional structures and institutions. Establishment institutions have of course many flaws, but they provide stability.  As one LSE article recently put it: ‘Without them, there is chaos’.  – hence what we are witnessing at present.  Both Trump and Johnson indicated at the outset of the pandemic that they weren’t entirely convinced it was as serious as was being suggested, and this scepticism has been the root of their downfall.  Instead of taking the swift action required at a time like this, they dithered about, questioning whether anything had to be done at all. Meanwhile the virus spread like wildfire. Approval ratings for both leaders have plummeted as a result and their futures are on the line.

Coronavirus has been a bitter pill to swallow for their supporters. The pandemic has unmasked these populists for what they really are: capitalists, not socialists.  We shouldn’t be misled by their name, these ‘populists’ are far from being ‘of the people’. They put business and profit first – not what you need during a public health crisis. The disregard for human life so blatantly demonstrated by the US, UK and Italian governments in their attitude to migrants over the years, is now manifesting itself in their approach to Covid-19. Did voters really think that these politicians cared about them any more than they did about the desperate Syrians stranded off the Italian coast?

The tide may now be turning for the wave of populism which has swept across the West in the past few years. The pendulum may swing back. With the likely election of Joe Biden in the US we could see the beginning of a return to mainstream politics. But whether we will see a return to ‘normality’ is a different question entirely…

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Chris Cosmos
Chris Cosmos
June 1, 2020

I think you may be right about much of the world but everything depends on perception. The USA situation is a bit unpredictable. Both political parties support an oligarchic kleptocracy but in different ways. I don’t think more than 15% of the American people know ANYTHING about what other countries are doing and the rest have no interest in finding out. The USA is solidly isolationist such that most people have no idea that most of the developed world mandates five to six weeks paid vacation and many have maternal and paternal leave–when I speak to people about this they… Read more »

janet merryweather
janet merryweather
June 1, 2020

What a poor analysis i.e a load of tripe
 
Missed here is that both the UK and USA fiddle the figures either by paying doctors more to get the narrative correct in the USA or by simply wrong data collection by the UK.
 
The UK has seen a dramatic fall in deaths from cancer, heart disease and has completely got rid of all suicides because everything is caused by Covid19
 
All this proves is that USA and UK lie about everything
 
Oh, and by the way, there is no pandemic

topical
topical
June 1, 2020

The globalists have done NOTHING for anyone during the Plandemic. Not a thing.
 
It was American populism that got us masks, equipment, tests and a successful treatment… All done by patriotism, corporations helping hospitals, etc.
 
I don’t know what planet you were living on at the time. Try paying attention.
 
Populism is becoming cemented.

Thraxite
Thraxite
Reply to  topical
June 2, 2020

That patriotism is costing 27000 dollars a test. Charged by the hospitals to medical workers health insurance. You’ve been totally scammed and all the Covid-19 money is being swallowed by US health insurance companies who are being aided and abetted by the corrupt US private hospital system. You’re wrong when you say they’ve done nothing, they have reduced your grandchildrens’ and great-grandchildrens’ standard of living for the worse. They have beggared you.

ManintheMoon
ManintheMoon
June 1, 2020

More rubbish from Infobrics. Senegal did better than the US or Britain! Actually they probably did no worse – not because one can believe their statistics or because they had an ace tracing system (ha ha!) – but because of lack of resources they and other third world countries let the disease take its course. How long does it take to get into the thick heads of the stenographers parotting either official propaganda – or in this case propaganda from the vaccine lobby who wanted even more drastic action – that the countries that did worst were those that had… Read more »

SaiKrpa
SaiKrpa
June 1, 2020

Yeah, because muh Africa is the bestest scientists! This is straight commie propaganda. “Racists can’t fight diseases.” Typical thesis from lamestream media.
 
 

Last edited 6 months ago by SaiKrpa
Michael Woodbridge
Michael Woodbridge
June 1, 2020

This article is heavy on rhetoric and light on facts.

Mario Prospero
Mario Prospero
June 2, 2020

Salvini at the moment is not governing Italy…

AMHants
AMHants
June 2, 2020

Boris looks one heck of a mess and that image was before Corona Virus.

Thraxite
Thraxite
June 2, 2020

The US CDC, The UK top doctor (governmental) and the Russian top doctor (governmental), have all said that coronavirus is no more dangerous than the regular flu and that the vast majority who get it will be asymptomatic (won’t even know they have it) and that even the vast majority of the those in the highest risk bracket will recover. Any article still sprouting covid-19 rubbish, is peddling fake news.
 
 

Josh C
Josh C
June 2, 2020

I was unaware that Salvini was currently governing Italy? Why must discussions on concrete economic issues fall down to Socialism vs Capitalism? With a Hamiltonian banking system, a Glass-Steagall Standard and a new national bank neither Socialism or Capitalism are necessary.

restless94110
restless94110
June 2, 2020

Everything in this article? It is quite the reverse. Populism is nationalism. Nothing can turn the tide against it.

Jack Heaton
Jack Heaton
June 20, 2020

The numbers are not correct , the more cases of covid-19 the more money hospitals get from government..

David
David
June 23, 2020

Scottish journalist based in Edinburgh… Not really much chance of a truthfully objective report. They all fawn over the one worlder arch EU supporter and destroyer of Scotland, Ms Nicola Sturgeon.

Tig
Tig
June 24, 2020

No it hasn’t
If anything it has highlighted the need for our borders to be more secure than ever and owned and maintained solely by us.
Globalism = communism + tyranny. End of
 

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