Le populisme sans le peuple

PRINCETON – La victoire sur le fil de Nicolas Maduro lors de la récente élection présidentielle au Venezuela soulève une question importante (sans lien aucun avec la remise en cause de sa victoire par l’opposition) : le populisme peut-il prospérer sans un dirigeant vraiment populaire et charismatique, ou des mouvements comme le chavisme sont-ils condamnés à l’oubli une fois disparues leurs figures de demi-dieux ?

De nombreux  observateurs estiment que le populisme est impensable sans un lien fort et direct entre un dirigeant opposé à l’ordre politique établi et des citoyens qui s’estiment négligés par les principaux partis politiques. Pourtant, le rôle du dirigeant d’un mouvement populiste est largement surestimé. En fait, compte tenu de l’importance du populisme comme phénomène politique, cette idée, et deux autres – à savoir que le populisme serait un appel à la démocratie directe, et que les populistes ne savent que protester, et pas gouverner – doivent être remises en cause.

Le populisme, contrairement au libéralisme ou au marxisme par exemple, n’est pas un ensemble cohérent de concepts politiques distincts. Mais il ne peut pas non plus être défini seulement comme un mouvement politique qui flatte les masses en défendant des propositions politiques simplistes. Si les populistes sont particulièrement enclins à avancer des solutions faciles, ils n’ont certainement pas le monopole de cette tactique. De plus, douter de leur sérieux et de leur intelligence est tout à leur avantage : voyez, diront-ils, comme les élites arrogantes et campées sur leurs positions récusent le sens commun du peuple.

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