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(Twenty-minute read)

The problem with the above question is where to start.

Around the world, democracies are distrusted by a majority of their citizens.

As a result, it is creating space for the rise of authoritarian-populist forces or other forms of independent representation.

Without trust we are diminishing our capacity to meet complex, long-term challenges, reducing support for evidence-based public policies and promotes risk aversion in government.

This lack of trust is and will translate into a lack of action.

I suppose that there is no one simple explanation for what drives or undermines political trust but there can be no doubt that social media with the growing worldwide inequality is contributing to spreading distrust. and forming barriers of political engagement.

This is set to get worse with profit-seeking algorithms.

So what is it about citizens, such as their educational background, class, location, country or cohort of birth, that makes them trusting or not?

In general, the strongest predictors of distrust continue to be attitudinal and are connected to negativity about politics which is being influenced more and more by technological algorithms of prediction and recommendation.

What would it be that makes citizens feel that their vote could deliver value?

Most interventions tend to focus on dealing with issues of social disadvantage through education, labour market activation, public participation, improved representation, place-based service delivery and other forms of empowerment.

By offering more participation or consultation we are turning politics into a tokenistic exercise, generating more cynicism and negativity among citizens, who are turning to Populism.

The term populism can designate either democratic or authoritarian movements. Populism is typically critical of political representation and anything that mediates the relation between the people and their leader or government.

Populism usually combines elements of the left and the right, opposing large business and financial interests but also frequently being hostile to established socialist and labour parties.

In its contemporary understanding, however, populism is most often associated with an authoritarian form of politics.

Populist politics, following this definition.

It revolves around a charismatic leader who appeals to and claims to embody the will of the people in order to consolidate his own power. In this personalized form of politics, political parties lose their importance, and elections serve to confirm the leader’s authority rather than to reflect the different allegiances of the people.

Depending on one’s view of populism, a populist economic program can, therefore, signify either a platform that promotes the interest of common citizens and the country as a whole or a platform that seeks to redistribute wealth to gain popularity, without regard to the consequences for the country.

In Europe, we are seeing the rise of the Swiss People’s Party, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Swedish Democrats, the Danish People’s Party, the Northern League in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orban in Hungary, and Greece’s Golden Dawn and of course the Brexit party in the UK.

Elsewhere in the world one has to only look at Donald Trump, Dufeele in the Philippines.

The question of what’s fueling this populist?

It’s nothing new.

Most of us are now live in two increasingly separate worlds one wants to eliminate health care, shred the social safety net, and cut taxes on the rich—benefit the winners from globalization and work against the economic interests of the working class.

They others want revenge and this revenge is —not of the economically insecure, but of the cultural left-behinds.

So are groups like the those mentioned above, just groups of nativist, putting their nation first?

The answer is obvious. No. They’re looking backwards.

However, that is not the case, because if populism was truly driven by economic fears, populist candidates should be drawing votes from those who are suffering the most: unskilled workers, the unemployed, those with lower levels of education, and less advantaged groups in cities and urban centres.

Because economic issues have declined in importance to voters, like cultural issues—around women’s rights, abortion, same-sex marriage, and gay rights—climate change – have risen to the fore, along with the anti-immigrant sentiment, authoritarianism, mistrust of global national governance, and right-wing ideological self-placement.

The rise of populist parties reflects, above all, a reaction against a wide range of rapid cultural changes that seem to be eroding the basic values and customs of Western societies.

So a populist leader is forced to be in a permanent campaign to convince his people that he is not established and will never be. Magnify the political divide. Ultimately he ignores complicated democratic systems and is therefore viewed with suspicion…

What if anything can be done?

The importance of beliefs can only be tackled through discussion of the role of mass media in influencing public trust.

The power of mass media is not easy to reconcile with the empirical evidence of experimental social psychology research which demonstrates that people with strong beliefs and values often remain unpersuaded even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Positive economic growth does not necessarily increase political trust, but negative economic growth and prolonged economic crises.

Rather, economic development and social modernisation in advanced industrial democracies have encouraged new types of engaged, questioning and assertive publics, for whom strong economic performance no longer automatically leads to increased trust.

There is only one answer to this question.

It is greater political accountability of MPs and political parties to their electorates and members.

Providing performance data will not work because it leads to government officials trying to manipulate the way citizens judge their performance. Positive data is given prominence, less helpful data sometimes hidden.

There is one thing for sure because trust cut across racial and ethnic lines any solution to the puzzle of political trust can not be achieved without our engagement.

Anti-establishment, might having faith in “plain talkers” and “ordinary people” as opposed to the “corrupt establishment” of business, government, academia, and media but without formal rules there can be no good democratic practice.

Here I may be forgiven for indulging in some wishful thinking and believing that, despite the current shortage of inspirational leadership in the West, trust in democratic principles and values that transcend national boundaries will remain strong and shared by a large number of ordinary people across the world.

The good news for political parties that take up the cause of democratic reform is that the citizenry is ready to take up the challenge.

Finding what is the equilibrium point between political trust and distrust requires reducing inequality because political attitudes are shaped by more than people’s pocketbooks.

In effect, political parties are each a product of the world view of their membership or of their directing minds. Their attitudes, carriage or expression are often indicative of the groups’ underlying body of beliefs, catechism or affirmation of faith.

The chattering class will continue to wallow in their own cynical self-assurance, and the best and most principled among us will remain reticent to enter to the moral minefield of public life.

At the heart of this faulty ontology remains the myth of the autonomous self, the pipe dream that our identity is a “blank slate” that WE choose regardless of the desires and influences of others.

Dogmatism and doctrinaire ideology may seem no longer attractive or realistic political attributes. But democracy will continue to mean a change of government from time to time as if oscillating between two sides with opposing philosophies rigidly applied.

The democratic tradition of alternating governments, evolving policies, pragmatic choices, etc theoretically presents us with some choice with regard to the management of our economic and other affairs.

Being so vulnerable to purely political decisions surely honesty is required.

Perhaps it is time to remove politics from decisions that require long term solutions and set them in law, like reducing Carbon emmission, before we see civil unrest, and migration on a massive scale.

Why should this be done:

Because elections are for political parties to be in office for the short term – five years if not re-elected.

All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.