Similarly, the hostility of populist movements toward immigration is misunderstood. While certainly racists who oppose immigration often cast their votes for populist parties, it would be foolish to ignore the many populist voters who believe that the EU has prevented their countries from undertaking legitimate steps to control the pace and scale of immigration. Dismissing these voters as yahoos or white supremacists doesn’t help anyone understand why people are angry at their leaders.
Much of that anger stems from the fact that an educated elite increasingly controls the political process in Europe. They have little connection to many of the people they purport to represent. In Britain, only 3 percent of members of Parliament have ever labored in a working-class job, while 18 percent have no work experience outside politics.
But these observations escape the elites who are now lashing out at the populists pressing them at the polls. Matthew Tyrmand, a Polish-American journalist who closely studies populist movements, told me, “Elites would do themselves a favor by realizing that they should at least address popular demand for more control over borders, the need for governmental transparency, and support for greater political accountability.”