French political history remembers the scathing reply of Valery Giscard d’Estaing to François Mitterrand during the Presidential debate in 1974: « You do not have a monopoly on heart. » As controversial as this pun might be, it played a significant role in Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s election. Today it would be necessary to divert those words and send them to those who, on both sides of the political spectrum, in all democracies, claim to speak on behalf of the people, while denying to others the same legitimacy.
No, those wrongly referred to as « the Populists » do not have the monopoly on the people. Democrats should not suggest that they speak only on behalf of the self-proclaimed elites and that these « populists » speak on behalf of all ordinary citizens. First, we should stop using the term « populism » in a disdainful way: There is no reason to be ashamed of speaking on behalf of the people; which is, in fact, the essence of democracy. Indeed, if « populism » refers to the ideology of those who care about the real needs of the people, in order to represent the people in the best way possible, then all democrats are « populists. » And criticizing populism is like giving credit to those who argue that only the extreme parties, both of the left and of the right, legitimately represents the people. And it means preparing their victories: In the upcoming elections, those who will ‘win over’ the people will be the winners, and those who will allow themselves to be pushed up against a wall by speaking on behalf of self-proclaimed elites will lose. And, in referring to these people, we must use a more specific term as to their position, that is to say, isolationism.
For the real opposition is not between the people and the elites. It is between those who want the country to isolate itself from the world and those who want to help it succeed.
Therefore, the monopoly of people should not be left to isolationists, wrongly referred to as « populists. »
For 25 years, I have been speaking out against a globalization of the market that would not be accompanied by a globalization of democracy, and I know how devastating a globalization of money is. It is depriving the people of a real influence on their future. I also know how terribly destructive an uncontrolled opening of money and of people from elsewhere. But the answer is not isolationism.
Closing borders will not protect us better from terrorism (only international cooperation does allow that), it will not create more jobs (others will do the same and we will all face a crisis), it will not protect national identity, (which is protected only through education, at every level within society) it will not create growth, (for this will deprive the country of the markets for investments and innovations from elsewhere) and, lastly, it will not give more power to the people (for this will inevitably lead to an authoritarian government, in order to control border closing). More generally: closing borders means condemning ourselves to live in a world where others will do the same. Which in turn will lead to the worst, for all.
It is therefore necessary, on behalf of the people, to fight isolationism, and prepare ourselves to be stronger in an open and exciting world. And for that to happen, we need a living, demanding, uncompromising democracy against corruption, cronyism, abuse of power, injustices, sectarianism, racism, intolerance, violence of all kinds that humiliate the people, and isolates it from itself. Without being obviously blissfully more open to others than they are to us.
It is in this permanent struggle that freedom and abundance will prevail against dictatorship and decline.