Populism and democracy

Despite all the fun and games happening in Europe I’ve been rather quite on the matter, and am actually going to continue with that with this post. So many other people are doing a much better job of commenting all I could really add is a “what they said”. I am however going to use the EU crisis and a post about it to pose a question that’s puzzled me for years and which The Snowolf just expressed in a far more eloquent fashion than I’d manage. What the Snowolf said was:

“Politicians get very sniffy about populist policy decisions, this is no surprise, because as far as they’re concerned, it is our job to accept their decisions, not their job to act on our wishes. But of course doing the popular thing makes you, well, popular.”

Which sums up rather what’s puzzled me for so long about politicians being “populist”, after all isn’t populism the whole basis of at least our electoral system if not democracy as a whole?* The theory is as I understand it that the wannabe politician makes loads of promises and the most popular or populist gets elected and then ignores those promises.

Then when they want to be elected again they do the whole popular thing again, and oddly we believe them. It’s just in between times both the politicians, the media and all sorts of activists seem to think that populism is a terrible terrible thing. Almost makes one suspect that they do view us as an inconvenience.

So what’s puzzling me is what exactly is the difference between bad evil “populism” and “representing the majority”? Or is it one of those irregular verbs, like:
I’m erotic
You’re kinky
They’re perverted
I represent the silent majority
You’re populist
They’re a rabble rouser?

I do of course welcome both other explanations and improvements to my irregular verbs.

* Both populism and democracy have roots in words meaning the people? demos and populous?

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