Protest votes

Francis Fukuyama famously claimed that with Western liberal democracy we have reached ‘the end of history’ or the final state of man’s sociological evolution. We have previously argued that this is fantasy – democracy is not a stable form of government. We argue that democracy leads to clientelism and bad decisions, but we are facing another sign of democracy’s decline: the rise of the protest candidate. Many voters are so alienated from and disillusioned with traditional politics that a candidate can be attractive solely by not being ‘one of them’; the despised out of touch ruling class. The feeling of being left behind is the foundation of middle class support for anti-establishment candidates like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Nigel Farage. And the trend is everywhere. Take a look at Iceland, where the Pirate Party is leading the opinion polls. The party wants to introduce Swiss style Direct Democracy and give Edward Snowden Icelandic citizenship. Their agenda is as anti political establishment as it can get. In the rest of the world the state of affairs is much worse. In Italy we have the left-wing 5 Star Movement, fronted by comedian Beppe Grillo, who recently joked that new London Mayor Sadiq Khan would ‘blow himself up in Westminster’. In Germany the far-right Alternativ Fuer Deutschland polls at 15% and rising, feeding off the establishments unwillingness to listen to public opinion – as though they have already abolished democracy if favour of the politics of political correctness. In Austria their brethren in the far-right Freedom Party made it to the run-off for the Presidency against a Green Party candidate. The traditional choice between centre-right and centre-left is history. Greece, the birth place of democracy, is a well known basket case where a far left party has taken power and is overseeing the death throes of the local economy. Spain has Podemos to match, polling at 20%, who wants to restructure (default on) Spain’s debt, introduce a wealth tax and copy France’s disastrous 35-hour work week. France itself has long struggled with the National Front, who is telling truths that the establishment is not prepared to confront. Here in the UK Labour has been hijacked by Trotskyists and only our arcane first-past-the-post electoral system keeps fringe candidates at bay.

Examples are everywhere. A century of democracy has cracked the allure of the traditional political parties. Voters are disillusioned, listening to anyone who is not a representative of the status quo. This is surely not the way democracy was supposed to work. Racists, communists, Trotskyists and unproven dilettantes are setting the agenda. When in power they will prove as inept as the current crop and set a course that will sink us even faster into the abys than the one we are already on. Is that what is meant by the end of history?

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