How liberal narrative could challenge European status quo and fight back national populism.

Main goals of my work during my Europe’s Futures fellowship would be to critically analyze the discourse of the European traditional parties of chosen countries, find the rationale of support for nationalistic parties by previously moderate voters and strategies to engage and prevail over a wave of populism look for the ways in which alternative discourses on the liberal/green/progressive side can win majorities and produce emotions that divide political spectrum in a new way.

We are facing a new modernization - with digital, ecological and imigrant revolutions affecting every aspect of the life of an average citizen. The politics is not catching up. Populists might be talking of the paradise lost, making their respective countries „great again”. But, notwithstanding their sentimental language, they are surprisingly modern and cunning in a way that most of their opponents are not. As Jan Werner Müller noted, those who vote for populists aren’t necessary populists themselves. It is possible to win hearts and minds of the nations currently under nationalist rule. They supported more moderate options not such a long time ago. But only with the European alternative to current uninspiring status quo, especially those countries at the peripheries where a modernizing agenda was always an import, not a domestic product. Fareed Zakaria argues in a recent „Foreign Affairs” that most of the wounds were self-inflicted, by the arrogant the United States, overreaching, disrespecting rules and allies. In a world where the power supporting liberal rules is waning the main sort of legitimacy is a democratic vote. Restoring the power of the citizen in the era of meritocracy is the ultimate promise of a populist. What they deliver is false promises to satisfy the former and incompetence as a result of dismantling the latter.

During my Europe’s Futures fellowship I’d like to examine different ways of channeling the anger and disappointment with European elites and narratives in a way that strength- ens rather than weakens European project. European democrats and liberals have to take the „change” back!

Leszek Jazdzewski

Leszek Jazdzewski is a Polish columnist and activist. In 2008, he founded LIBERTÉ! - the journal, web portal and foundation, where he still works as the editor-in-chief. As a liberal opponent of nationalist and conservative tendencies, he co-launched the campaign Świecka Szkoła (Secular School). He is the creator of the project Igrzyska Wolnosci (Freedom Games), a unique interdisciplinary meeting about the key challenges the Western societies must face in the 21st century. He is a council member of European Forum for New Ideas, a Marshall Memorial Fellow, appointed as one of 25 young leaders for the next 25 years by a foundation “Teraz Polska” (“Poland Now”). He sat at the Vàclav Havel Jury for the 2018 One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. His „support” speech at May 3 prior to Donald Tusk’s lecture at the Warsaw University went viral making headlines across the country.