Alright fine, I acknowledge the existence of Dansk Folkeparti.
As a proudly centrist voter, my approach to DF has been a mix of plugging my ears and shaking my head in disappointment. I am aligned with many other Danes in thinking that the rise of the far right signals a dark era in our nation’s politics. But is that assumption fair? Should we continue to dismiss the views of DF, the Christian democrats, the Golden Dawn and the host of other parties finding their way into parliaments across Europe, or is it time to take our fingers out of our ears?
There is a concept political scientists use to categories ideologies or movements such as Marxism(communism), feminism, and sometimes green movements, called critical theories. What this concept describes is that these viewpoints don’t necessarily represent a fully realistic ideology in themselves, but can contribute a great deal to the discussion. They do not argue about what policies we should enact, but instead say that our range of options is biased. How would it change the role of Dansk Folkeparti, to view it in this light? While other parties argue on what choices we should make in our current system, critical theorists critique the system as a whole.
These can often make these groups very unpopular within mainstream politics. It certainly makes them more challenging to compromise with, and can sometimes feel like they are shutting down debates. When anything you try to do is flawed just because it is part of the current system it can be tiring. This is only exacerbated by the fact that critical theories are often represented by their most extreme elements. The people who yell the loudest are the ones who the rest of us hear. Greenpeace is seen as a central group in the environmental movement when they board an oil well, while Oikos Copenhagen is passed over. So it is understandable that people can have negative views of these groups.
But despite all that, these movements have important insights to offer to the rest of us. The core message they are based on, when explained by reasonable, articulate people is one we can all agree with. Very few people today would contest the idea that women and men should be equal, and that we should alter the institutions, which impede that. It seems perfectly fair to say that we should prioritize long-term planning about the environment that we live in us just as much as an economy that we live from. These ideologies grew to form movements because there were rational beliefs that were never discredited, but which were still excluded from the political process.
So does the far right match the characteristics of a critical theory? Well it’s easy to say that it should have that status just by being a mirror of far left Marxism. But the fit is much clearer than that. The simple appeal that populists use everywhere is that governments have become concerned with their own goals and not the ones of opinion polls. A government should make decisions based on what the majority of the nation wants: at its core, once again, that’s an ideology that most people would agree with in a moment. But in recent years, we have moved away from that, we look to what the economists and policy experts recommend. What we have ignored is how ‘right’ policies can be when they contradict the will of the people.
Even if this is the core insight on which DF rests, though, it certainly isn’t what comes across. The policies we associate with them have much more to do with immigration and welfare. But this is symptomatic of all of these groups, the most extreme views get the most attention. Just remember how much opinion polls underestimated DFs support in the most recent election. People who are not radical but support the party are passed over. So to us, from the outside, they look much more extreme than they really are.
None of this means to say that I support the policies of DF; But maybe we need to extend to DF the same leeway that political scientists extend to all those other theories. We have to cut through the noise to find the important issues that they can bring to the table. We should look closer at whether our politicians are cutting corners by having experts advise them instead of promoting their ideas to the public. We need to work to close the gap of understanding, and work towards making sure that the politicians defend their value judgments against all viewpoints, not just the convenient ones.