A quote from The Economist, on the occasion of President Trump's inauguration:
All populists are at heart conspiracy theorists, who pretend that easy solutions exist to society’s woes and have only not been tried to date because elites are wicked and deaf to the sturdy common-sense of decent, ordinary folk.So how can populism be challenged? A lesson from Venezuela:
Your organizing principle is simple: don’t feed polarization, disarm it.
This means leaving the theater of injured decency behind.
The Venezuelan Opposition struggled for years to get this. It wouldn’t stop pontificating about how stupid it all is. Not only to their international friends, but also to the Chavista electoral base itself.
“Really, this guy? Are you nuts? You must be nuts.” We’d say.
Don’t waste your time trying to prove that this ism is better than that ism. Ditch all the big words. Why? Because, again, the problem is not the message but the messenger. It’s not that Trump supporters are too stupid to see right from wrong, it’s that you’re much more valuable to them as an enemy than as a compatriot.
The problem is tribal. Your challenge is to prove that you belong in the same tribe as them: that you are American in exactly the same way they are.
But if you want to be part of the solution, the road ahead is clear: Recognize you’re the enemy they need; show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those that brought Trump to power; by all means be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.
Unfortunately these tactics against Chavez were never truly successful; he was never ousted and died in office. His reputation among the people remains good, even though he didn't do enough strength Venezuela before its economic crisis.
I suspect, like Chavez, Trump's reputation will remain strong with his core supporters, no matter what messages the opposition adopts. Like anti-vaxxers and climate deniers, too many people are just too isolated from the consequences of their beliefs; there's not enough pain or suffering to make them doubt the messages they're hearing. Unless we have a similarly bad economic crisis while Trump is in power, or another 9/11 or Katrina-style catastrophe that he obviously mishandles, this will continue.