Posted 35 days ago
Lofflmann's summary of populism is a good one, and corresponds with John B. Judis's The Populist Explosion, which tracks the history of populism in the West and its rise in America. Lofflemann writes:
Populism is a notoriously difficult concept to define or categorize. At its most basic, we can think of it as a form of political rhetoric that divides society into two hostile camps, the ‘real people’ and the dishonest elites who have betrayed it, and seek to mobilize the former against the latter.
This does seem to fit the growing rhetoric from the Right, who seem to accuse people of being "sheeple," "beta males," or needing to "wake up." But that vocabulary is more of what appears on social media, often from people who don't really grasp the movement they are supporting. Lofflmann provides a clearer definition, which is the one that the new side of the Republican party is pushing:
Populists stoke fears of an alien ‘other’ such as illegal immigrants, foreign competitors and geopolitical rivals and then lay the blame for exposing the country to these external ‘threats’ on liberal cosmopolitan elites and their misguided ideologies and policies, from globalization to military interventionism and multilateralism.
Frankly, they have good reason to support this view (wars all over the world, the loss of jobs and manufacturing from American soil, and the appeasement of authoritarian nations for the sake of "preserving democracy"). People resonate with this view, but I think what happens is that this well-defined, reasonable critique of the liberal order, devolves into a garbage fire of hashtags and the like in public discourse. This is not unique to the Right, but rather indicative of the greater public's discourse on political concepts. Unifying under a Populist candidate who can clearly articulate an "us versus them" strategy will galvanize supporters.
Bernie Sanders operates under much of the same assumptions. People might argue that his underlying principles are more reasonable, but his most vocal supporters are often not. A similar thing goes for the Right: the most vocal supporters are often hideous, but the people who have critiqued the neoliberal order themselves often come from very academic, well-thought out arguments. The nature of public discourse today is what devolves these arguments into two camps. I'm not saying today is worse than yesterday, it's probably better honestly, but that still doesn't mean we should be proud of the way this discourse unfolds.
But on this same note, the centrists love to point this out saying that the problems are "too intricate" to break down into simple concepts. This is also a silly rhetoric used by technocrats, that both the Left and the Right have become enormously upset with. The centrists, often those supportive of the liberal, capitalist system, say that the system is too complicated for normal people, and only those qualified can really understand it and make the appropriate "tweaks" necessary to fix it. This is propaganda in itself, and the Left and Right are both realizing how ridiculous this is and that is what is leading to a "polarization" in the eyes of centrist media. Personally, I believe more in the Horseshoe theory, where many of the policies persued by the opposite ends of the political spectrum are much more similar than they seem at first glance.