Been writing too much (in other places) about politics. No more from me, for now, about the cartoon adventures of Donald and Mickey (aka “Fiddy” Pence). As citizens of UK which last time out mandated “Dave” Cameron and his chum Gideon as our leaders, seems we can not be smug regarding the allure of idiot billionaires and their progeny. What has been bugging me for ages is this word ‘Populism’ that journalists trot out as if they’ve explained something by typing it. Everything seems inevitable with hindsight (only because it’s what actually happened) and just now when there’s an outcome the establishment did not foresee, Populism is the reason. This is not helping – in politics as in sport or any other human activity, those who don’t understand history are compelled to repeat it. Explaining complex events as if they had only one cause is … well it’s Populist. For example, the pretend narrative that Brexit was a victory for knuckle-dragging thugs led by Nigel Farage has poisoned UK political discourse and legitimised the hard right.
Of course, those pointing and yelling the ‘P’ word don’t define what they mean (few politicians set out to be unpopular) but the context suggests it covers offering facile solutions that are attractive in the short term but ultimately damaging – like Austerity for example. In fact politicians are either Populists, Elitists, Technocrats or Ideologues (or whatever mixture of the above fits their underlying Narcissism) – this problem has been with us since the Ancient Greeks started voting their most able leaders into exile.
Suggesting that the Left has to learn from self-proclaimed Populists like Bernie Sanders (not so different to DT in his wrong-headed economic policy) or the likes of one-note performance artist shouter Jonathan Pie, is a dead end. As Michelle Obama said, and everyone agreed at the time, progressives have to offer hope, not fear and lies – they can’t win a dumbing down battle.
The recent electoral tragedy was not inevitable. We need to have explained why a majority of white female voters preferred a misogynist, why a third of hispanic voters supported a man whose racist policies demonise them (was there a Catholic influence?). Why does the left keep throwing up ‘leaders’ like Sanders who seem happy to damage rival colleagues more than the opposition? What was the influence of the billionaire’s club that funds think-tanks, climate change denial and now fake news and why did Zuckerberg give them such an easy ride? How far has the right wing reaction to a black President driven US law enforcement in the direction of institutionalised racism? These factors more than the votes of a few blue collar unemployed who can conveniently be labelled ignorant were crucial to what happened, and the current hand-wringing despair about Populism tells us nothing about them