Following two major surprise events in 2016 – Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – many people have very publicly reflected on why politics has become more polarized. Why has this happened and why now?
Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President, Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Ron Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University
Shaista Aziz, Journalist; Co-Founder, Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy
Dr Patricia Lewis, Research Director, International Security, Chatham House
Chair: Dr Robin Niblett CMG, Director, Chatham House
Following two major surprise events in 2016 – the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump – many people in the media, polling, academia, and policymaking have very publicly reflected on why politics has become more polarized and why the general population seem less inclined to listen to the advice of experts and authority figures. A common conclusion to this reflection is that people have become increasingly disillusioned with the status quo. Why has this happened and why now?
This panel consider whether ‘mainstream’ or ‘centrist’ opinion is indeed diverting from that of the wider public – particularly socio-economically poorer and minority groups who are under-represented in most democracies. Do these feelings of disenfranchisement and isolation adequately explain the increased political polarization seen recently in many western democracies or are there more complex dynamics at play?
The panellists also examine how public discourse in a democracy can be opened up to people and groups that have traditionally been excluded. Is social media a useful and egalitarian tool to give a voice to the previously voiceless or do these platforms often run the risk of removing nuance and further polarizing debate? Can the location and physical nature of a public forum aid the free exchange of ideas? And can politics ever include ‘all voices’ or does a functioning democracy demand that only a limited number of people can make decisions on behalf of the masses?