We are all populists, right?

Posted 8.8.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Populism is not new; the concept stretches at least to the 1800s with political parties using that term in both the US and Russia. Then, populism was left of centre, advocating for collectivization in Russia and the nationalization of public goods, like railways, in the US. US populists (The Peoples Party) argued for a graduated income-tax, and it is curious that today's born-again populists are pushing to reverse tax laws, so the wealthiest citizens pay the same as do the poorest.

Today's populists -- Trump, Bibi, Salvini, Duarte, and Canada's Kenney and Ford -- did not appear from the ether. They are too well-funded! Mussolini rose to power on a populist platform. Many compare Trump to Mussolini, in personal style, bravado, buffoonery -- and viciousness -- ignoring their political machine built on base appeals to self-interest (rather than communal interests), combined with their dark-money support from the very exploiters of " the people". Climate change does not matter, in this songbook, for example, because it interferes with our ability to exploit and enjoy the riches of our planet without restrictions.

Mussolini militarized it with the claim that " might makes right" and called it Fascism. Which lives on in today's populism, under various word-decorations.

Justin Trudeau is not a populist. He pitches clearly to the " Middle Class." Populism often attacks the middle in competing with the Left for the support of the working class and lumpenproletariat. Populism openly courts the lumpen, which Communists rarely do.

These days such boundaries seem blurred and, in fact, it's a liability for politicians to appear too specific or too " intellectual" in their distinctions: they're all for " the people," including those who earn in ten minutes what you and I earn in a year. (" Earn" used metaphorically.) But " the people" does not include LGBTQ and most non-white people.

Blurring of distinctions is an important part part of populism. Ignoring and hiding class distinctions, all intellectualism, and, basically, any thought lasting longer than a social-media moment is common today. There's one reason for saying most of us are populists.

Populists are powered by whatever appears as " good for The People," no matter if these measures are just a facade, bait, gimmick, or hook to gain support from The People. Take for example our sacrosanct notion of a democratic vote. Politicians and media regularly condemn regimes for any lack of democratic elections, implying that any vote automatically yields a democratic result no matter how manipulated.

Yet no Canadian votes for our prime minister; he/she's elected by her/his party. Trump was actually defeated in the popular vote by Hilary Clinton; the Electoral College gave him the presidency, not the popular election. And we, or many of us, feel Canada and the US are the world's peak examples of democratic systems. And that makes us populists: we claim the will of the people is primordial, that elections are God's gift to mankind — and it doesn't matter if neither of these (for example, a popular vote) are respected, as long as they appear to be respected. The media assures us this is so, and since corporate media itself is the result of the finest rising to the top via free-market competition, who can question our national creds?

Given all of this, we are certainly populists ... in a self-deluded way.


Copyright © 2019 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles 8.8.19