The riots in Paris appear to be a continuation of the populist trend exhibited in the Brexit controversy and the Trump election. The voters just do not trust the elites in charge, but this anti-elitism is upsetting a social order with a weak foundation.
Politics is largely a marketing operation. You can argue that the consumer is irrational in his choice, but it remains his choice. It is the job of the marketer to persuade, and the first role of the seller is to gain the confidence and trust of the buyer. In politics you may have the use of power to overcome the consumer’s or voter’s irrationality, but in a democracy this attitude will be short lived.
Progressives sought greater democracy to accomplish the people’s will, but at the same time removed more acts of government from the accountability to the voters. Democracy pursued on one hand was frustrated on the other. In the United States this took the form of the growing administrative state; in Europe it took the form of the European Union. The Union was an administrative state that crossed nationalist borders. Populism is just an unencumbered form of democracy. It is the reaction to the undemocratic part of Progressivism.
The elite now face the democracy they pursued breeching the wall of the administrative state they erected.
The uprising in Europe is the realization of the limits of the welfare and administrative state. Margaret Thatcher noted that in socialism you eventually run out of other people’s money. Europe also demonstrates that the cost of the administrative state eventually hits the middle class. Europeans have largely accepted this fact but the carbon fuel tax pushed it past its limit. The carbon tax is the last brick on the truck before the axel collapsed, but we are shortsighted to discount all the other bricks loaded before that.
As long as the elite debated climate policy in their enclaves, few of the citizens cared. Their apathy was taken for consent and approval. But the moment that the cost became personal the resistance emerged. They were willing to fund a welfare state that provided benefits they could witness; but were far less willing to fund a program that was nebulous and distant in its outcome.
In the U.S. we have not embraced the welfare state as the Europeans have but we are reaching the same dilemma; we do not want to raise taxes, but we do not want to accept a cut in entitlements. The result is unsustainable deficits. It is much easier to cut taxes than to cut entitlements.
In a democracy the administrative state will eventually become accountable; much to the dismay of the progressives who thought themselves insulated from the democracy they championed.