With ageing societies, living longer, back grounded by increasing mobility of youth and working age, are younger generations viewed as a threat and going to be disadvantaged by upper median age voting demographics, led on by Nativist and populist politicians?
‘From Project Syndicate.
Oct 10, 2018 EDOARDO CAMPANELLA
It is often assumed that the rise of populism in Western democracies is primarily a response to economic insecurity and anger toward privileged elites. But the fact is that neither of those sentiments can be understood without also accounting for the political consequences of population ageing.
MILAN – The right-wing populism that has emerged in many Western democracies in recent years could turn out to be much more than a blip on the political landscape. Beyond the Great Recession and the migration crisis, both of which created fertile ground for populist parties, the ageing of the West’s population will continue to alter political power dynamics in populists’ favour….
….Britons voted disproportionately in favour of leaving the European Union, and older Americans delivered the US presidency to Donald Trump. Neither the Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland nor Fidesz in Hungary would be in power without the enthusiastic support of the elderly. And in Italy, the League has succeeded in large part by exploiting the discontent of Northern Italy’s seniors. Among today’s populists, only Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front) – and possibly Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil – relies on younger voters……
…Most likely, a growing sense of insecurity is pushing the elderly into the populists’ arms. Leaving aside country-specific peculiarities, nationalist parties all promise to stem global forces that will affect older people disproportionately.
For example, immigration tends to instil more fear in older voters, because they are usually more attached to traditional values and self-contained communities….
….By backing right-wing populists, older voters hope to return to a time when domestic affairs were insulated from global forces and national borders were less porous. At the heart of today’s nationalist politics is a promise to preserve the status quo – or even to restore a mythical past.
Hence, nationalist politicians often resort to nostalgic rhetoric to mobilise their older supporters. For his part, Trump has pledged to bring back jobs in the American Rust Belt, once the centre of US manufacturing. Likewise, there could be no clearer symbol of resistance to change than his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border. And his crackdown on illegal immigration and ban on travellers from predominantly Muslim countries signals his commitment to a “pure” American nation.
Similarly, in continental Europe, right-wing populists want to return to a time before the adoption of the euro and the Schengen system of passport-free travel within most of the EU. And they often appeal directly to older voters by promising to lower the retirement age and expand pension benefits (both are flagship policies of the League).
In the United Kingdom, the “Leave” campaign promised vindication for those who have been left behind in the age of globalisation. Never mind that it also touted the idea of a free and independent “Global Britain.” The Brexiteers are not known for their consistency.
At any rate, to the extent that today’s populist wave is driven by demographics, it is not likely to crest anytime soon. In greying societies, the political clout of the elderly will steadily grow; and in rapidly changing economies, their ability to adapt will decline. As a result, older voters will demand more and more socioeconomic security, and irresponsible populists will be waiting in the wings to accommodate them…..