For a long time, demagogy and democracy only seemed to be close to one another when you looked them up in the dictionary. But in the real world of politics today, they are moving ever closer. Despite the devastation and tragedies caused by the demagogues of the world, humanity still does not seem to have learned its lesson. What's worse is that demagogy has not been extinguished in modern democracies, but has actually used them as an ideological breeding ground. It is spreading out among powerless citizens who do not understand what is happening.
It almost seems like we are replaying an old familiar film, and that the evil seen in the first half of the last century will once again contaminate countries of all sizes and political leanings.
Demagogy: the evil of our times
In Latin America, there is a typical type of politician who is first elected on the basis of popularity and then remains in power on the basis of demagogy. This violates the most basic principles of the democracy that actually made the politician's rise possible.
In our third-world latitudes, that's no news. Demagogy is part of the political landscape. What is actually alarming is the fact that this virus is spreading across countries that have mature cultures, reliable institutions and a historic tradition of democracy.
We saw it in Britain's Brexit referendum and Donald Trump's election victory in the USA: In both cases, general confusion prevailed over common sense. This can be attributed to the demagogy that is fed by the dissatisfaction of the population and the shortcomings of the establishment, which underestimated the potential of this damaging discourse.
In the run-up to the elections in Germany, however, it has been quite refreshing to see that the two top candidates for chancellor have not taken the easy road and focused on topics like nationalism and immigration that score voter points, as was the case in the US election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. That campaign culminated in Trump's controversial promise to build a wall on the US border with Mexico.
Merkel is more mature than Trump
Additionally, against the backdrop of France's June presidential election scare, when right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen made it into the final round of voting, the rivalry between Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz conveys a pleasant calm. It is highly likely the chancellor will receive a mandate for her fourth term in office. But even if former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz won, no one would get goose bumps.
In times when Trump's unpredictable behavior is confusing half the world, the good news is that Europe's most important power remains in the hands of a responsible adult, something that cannot be said of the United States at the moment.
Twelve years of government experience
Despite the aura of a frumpy high school teacher and the voice of a nun, Angela Merkel has still managed to cultivate an image of a stable person who does not immediately lose her nerve when she has to make a controversial decision, like opening up the borders in late summer 2015 to nearly a million people seeking refuge. Although this seemed like political suicide two year ago, polls still show that many of Merkel's fellow Germans continue to place their trust in her. Twelve years of ups and downs in office are, in the end, twelve years of experience.
Outside Germany, Angela Merkel is greatly respected for her moderate policies. She has shown that she is the only leader in Europe who can stand up to Trump. Someone has to do the dirty work.Vladimir Florez