Democracy, we are told, should be the aspiration of all modern states. It is what we are taught in school history classes, and what is promoted to us through the media on a daily basis. It is the highest form of relative political freedom, allowing people to make well-informed decisions on the future of their country.

 

2016 has been the year to challenge this assumption.

A year where populism has manipulated people’s suffering and lack of understanding. A year where hatred and personal assault have become the norm in mainstream politics. And a year that has left leading Western populations dangerously divided.

We have seen it with the Brexit vote. The Leave campaign managed to portray the EU as being against everything Britain ‘used to be’. To get us back to this non-existent ‘golden era’, blatant untruths were told on the future of the NHS, immigration and law.

A general lack of understanding towards modern politics became fodder for populists. I am not saying that Brexit was only backed by people with limited knowledge, only that it is unlikely to have succeeded without them.

We see the same in the US. Multi-billionaire business emperor, Donald J. Trump has appointed himself as the champion of the working class. Cutting back the bravado, this is a man who dodges federal tax despite earning more money per week than all the people he ‘sympathises with’ earn in a lifetime. By toying with real concerns, he has managed to pretend that it is not people like him who ruin the US, but instead Muslims, Mexicans and liberals.

Even Trump didn’t think people were misinformed enough to give him the victory. Constantly saying that the election was rigged against him, his nervous victory speech, and his coy meeting with Obama all show that even he underestimated the powers of his manipulation.

Voters should not always get the blame for this. It is the puppeteers, the politicians and those from above who use discontent to their own advantage. Trump absolutely and unequivocally is not concerned about America’s working class, but he has manipulated people to think otherwise.

It is democracy, and how this has been manipulated by populist elites that has resulted in the shocks of 2016. Even for me, someone not necessarily at one with the liberal left, ‘democracy’ has become synonymous with manipulation and lies.

So where does it stop?

We look to both France and Germany as the next stations for the white, working-class train. For Merkel, it will take a miracle in the face of the migrant crisis to win another election. Similarly, at this stage a loss for Le Pen would be more of an international shock than her victory.

‘2016’ will ripple on, well past January 1. It has started a downward spiral into post-truth politics that may take some time to get out of. In the meantime, let’s hope that the ambitions of Brexiteers and Trump supporters come true. Let’s hope that the 52 per cent of Britons who backed Leave find their golden era once more. And let us pray that Trump really can somehow ‘make America great again’.

Otherwise, the pain of 2016 has been for nothing.

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