It depends on who you ask. If you look it up in the dictionary, it says “Support for the concerns of ordinary people” and “the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people” (Google). If you ask the BBC news, they say: In political science, populism is the idea that society is separated into two groups at odds with one another – “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite” (source). The Oxford dictionary states it as: “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite” (source).
In WikiPedia and other publications, populism is the ideology, which posits “the people” as a morally good force against “the elite”, who are perceived as corrupt. Theoretically, “the people” can be defined as class, ethnic, or national lines and the “elites” can be defined as political, economic, cultural, and media establishment, which are accused of placing the interests of other groups—such as foreign countries or immigrants—above the interests of “the people” (source).
Populists are not by definition right-wing political parties or governments. There are also left-wing political parties, which are populists, but not as common as the right-wing variant.
The populist movement is becoming more popular by the day. From the 1990s, right-wing populist parties became established in the various democracies, including including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Romania and Sweden; and they entered coalition governments in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Finland, Greece, Italy, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland; and majority governments in India, Turkey, Hungary and Poland.
The right-wing populist movements began really to grow when uncontrolled immigration streams began entering Europe and the US, the rising Euroscepticism, the discontent with the economic policies of the EU and of course the man of the century, President Trump’s political views, which were and are labeled as right-wing populist and as Nationalist, depending on who you ask.
And if you ask if the establishment is happy with the arrival of populism, the answer is no. In Europe, they try to study populism, which is threatening their political existence. They are by definition negative (before they write their ‘political scientific’ papers about the subject and their conclusions are already known before they finish writing it) and totally beside the point and it shows how they underestimate and disregard it, even when the countries with populist governments are rising.
What those people don’t understand is that there is something missing about their definition of populist movements today.
Here is the definition of populism from the Oxford dictionary again:
“a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite”
And here is the changed version of the definition, which actually tells more why the populism is on the rise:
“a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded and under threat, caused and forced by established elite”
Many people in Europe and the US notice (and experience) restrictions in freedom, physical threats, discrimination, being victims of crimes, straight-out attacks, overwhelmed by masses of foreigners in their communities, their culture and traditions being destroyed or suppressed, feeling unsafe in their cities and they blame the established elites for all of those unwelcome changes, they never asked for.
Or let’s say it in plain English. People are getting afraid of what those in power are doing with their countries and communities.
And what do people, who are getting afraid? Or better, what teaches history about people, who are collectively afraid about certain trends? At the very least, it means a guaranteed change, if the ‘elites’ and media like it or not. At the very last, it might mean also revolutions, uprisings, violence, civil war, and more violence.
And if that’s not enough, they feel that they are under attack from the mainstream media, which are constantly presenting a view in line of the elites and experience acute attacks from that same media on TV, newspapers and the Internet.
In the UK it becomes even worse, the immigrants and none-locals are being preferred over the locals, who are being controlled and prosecuted when they protest. Activists, who are ‘preaching’ or presenting their case about populism are refused entry to the UK! The grooming gangs of people mainly of Arab countries continue their crimes with sexually abusing white-teens, which they seem to prefer. The sharp increase of violence and attacks on anyone walking on the streets in the British communities.