Populism is afoot in the land.
Populism, taken simply, is a political ideology grounded in the belief that some elite somewhere runs things for their own good, inevitably screwing the deserving groups of society. Populist movements occur when groups of people band together seeking to overthrow this elite in the name of the “people.”
But it turns out the story is more complicated than that. Populism comes in at least two varieties: left-wing populism and right-wing populism. They share important features in common, but differ in politically significant ways.
Left-wing populists believe that society is unjustly run by an elite of corporate and wealthy persons in cooperation with their enablers in government. This cabal of “bad guys” systematically screws over the mass of people—poor, working and middle class people just trying to make a living, build good lives through access to things like public schools and affordable higher education, and enjoy the fruits of labor over the whole course of their lives.
Sound familiar? It should: I’ve just summarized the populist part of the Occupy movement.
Right-wing populism shares a skepticism of government with left-wing populism, but holds a very different group of people accountable for society’s ills. In right-wing populism, the bad guys are society’s unproductive, undeserving groups (the poor, public employees, and others who live on the public dole) along with their enablers in government. This cabal of bad people works to take money from deserving, productive people (the employed and yes, even corporations and the wealthy) to give it to people who have demonstrated their failure as people in the fact of their needing or asking for help.
Welcome to tea party America.
So it turns out that leftists and rightists share a lot in common in American politics. They both sense the good people of society are being screwed over by the bad people of society. They just define each group differently.
Need final proof? Check out the picture at the bottom of this post: it is a mashup of signs from tea party rallies and anarchist rallies against the G-20 and globalization.They say politics makes strange bedlfellows … and this time, they’re right.
Does it diminish the Tea Party’s populist appeal that they are incontravertibly, uncompromisingly wrong?
That they are not a grassroots movement, but a mere astroturf created by the conservative media; living off the rich veins of classism, racism, misogyny and fear of Government in all forms which permeate American society; That their influence pushes conservatism to unforeseen heights, towards caricatures of politicians who, frankly, make Reagan look like a moderate?
Does it diminish the Tea Party’s populist appeal that they are the direct cultural offspring of Timothy McVeigh?
Question for liberals reply
Alright, thanks for the replies everyone. Didn’t mean to make you all mad, I just wanted to understand the liberal side. I’m cool with welfare for families that need it and are actively seeking work. I know the requirements, but it is an easy system to corrupt. Forget about statistics here because you can’t gather this kind. Use common sense- Don’t you think it’s the least bit odd that you have to get drug tests to have a job in this country, but not to collect money from those who have jobs and contribute to society? Seriously, I’d be fine with helping people who are not doing drugs. I admire the trust in this “honor system,” but wouldn’t it make all the sense in the world to require drug tests on the unemployed who go on welfare.
As far as OWS goes, I’m all for exercising democratic rights. However, this has gone too far. You might want to check this out- http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-01-29/occupy-oakland-protests/52871646/1. I’m sure that not all protesters use drugs, burn our flag, and assault people. But it’s disturbing how many are, and getting away with it.
Also, corporations create jobs and run this country. Attacking them and being paranoid about “lobbying” is just silly and un- American. Capitalism runs on competition and these corporations create global competitiveness and American superiority across the world. Why do people have a problem with our politicians helping them out? So what, they get paid. Good for them! It’s not undermining democracy at all. Corporations are made up of people, and those people are the ones helping our economy. We must get work ethic back in America because this system has always worked until this current epidemic of laziness and entitlement sense.
As far as poor people helping themselves, that’s not what I said at all. I think we the people must take responsibility and help them, apart from the government. My family is active in helping the poor. My parents donate to many charities and we help the poor through my volunteer activities, such as homeless shelters. This is actually caring for the poor. Unlike big government help, with its many opportunities for corruption, it’s actually showing them love as opposed to forced giving.
I’m just going to focus real quick on the part I bolded. This, folks, is spoon-fed conservative nonsense. OP, you asked liberals to explain corruption. But corporations paying politicians to look out for their special interests is just “creating competition”? And questioning that is UN-AMERICAN? Gee, I wonder why people say Republicans don’t care about poor people!
For real though. Having social programs (which every first-world nation has, including the ones with better economies than ours) is creating an “epidemic of laziness and entitlement” but openly supporting candidates who will let you pay less in taxes is just how capitalism works? Seriously? Seriously? Are you even listening to yourself?
Take your own advice and use a little common sense. Do you think we should drug test every person who gets tax breaks? Every person who uses public schools and parks and sidewalks? No? Then why should we only drug test poor people who use “taxpayer money”? HMMMM.
I love your “well you can’t gather statistics on this stuff” line. Actually you can! In Florida, when they started drug-testing welfare recipients, less than 2% of them failed. That’s lower than than the average level of drug use in our country, period. That’s not common sense — that’s reality. The truth has a liberal bias.
Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?
Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.
And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.
Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?
Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.
But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.
Question: How can we strengthen the demos?
Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was different in Vietnam.
- Dr. Cornel West
"Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.
It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade."
President Obama, Obama on ‘Trickle Down’ Economics: ‘It Doesn’t Work, It Has Never Worked’ (via darkjez)
“Yes: to protect everyone’s health and safety, (Mayor Bloomberg) sent in this guy. There he is, helping the wounded and the sick with his two fists — ‘Florence’ and ‘Nightingale.’”
— STEPHEN COLBERT, The Colbert Report
My wife and I both worked hard in school and went on to earn graduate degrees. Now together we earn over $100K. We own our house and we are raising two wonderful children. We are proud of the success we have earned.
BUT, we recognize that those below us on the income ladder are also working hard or are seeking work.
We recognize that the society we live in needs people who will stock store shelves, clean the floors, drive delivery trucks, operate cash registers, and do many other low paying tasks.
Since these jobs need doing, we recognize that the workers who do them deserve to be able to live lives of dignity – that is, lives that are not blighted by poverty or crippling financial insecurity or lack of health care.
So WE THE PEOPLE must provide a safety net for each other. It is simple decency, not to mention justice.
Mm sister-in-law needs to read this and have a good, hard think.
DEAR MOM AND DAD: THIS.
Dr. Cornell West was arrested today protesting the NYPD’s use of “stop and frisk” searches:
Princeton professor and noted activist Cornel West was arrested last weekend for protesting in front of the Supreme Court, and on Friday afternoon he repeated the experience in New York City.
West was part of a demonstration against the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy, in which individuals considered suspicious by the police are searched without due cause.
According to Salon’s Justin Elliott, the NYPD carried out 600,000 such searches last year, with 87% of the targets being black or Hispanic. Only 7% of the searches resulted in arrest, and critics of the policy say it does little to reduce crime and is probably unconstitutional.
Here’s the speech he gave moments before the arrests began:
These searches, even if they yielded arrests the majority of the time, have enormous potential for abuse - evident with the NYPD’s application of stop and frisk searches. To me, the searches are a morally reprehensible violation of a person’s civil rights.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
Keep fighting, folks. King wrote in the same letter, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
i want to do this. so serious.
who wants in?
Me me me! (waves hand and flails)
lol thats 3.
It will be a smaller community, but when I eventually have kids, I plan to raise them in a situation like this, with my closest friends/ the most amazing people I know. Plus, I see it as a way to prepare for the apocalypse, if we have our own society.
I would love to raise Cain in a setting like this with other families. I just dont know if my anxiety and weirdness could handle all those other people.
I wanna do dat! but only if there are radical queers/fat femmes.
There was a time when I liked a good riot. Put on some heavy old street clothes that could stand a bit of sidewalk-scraping, infect myself with something good and contagious, then go out and stamp on some cops.
It was great, being nine years old."
Spider Jerusalem (via onesilentcall)
"My friend summing up the Wisconsin capitol occupation experience with the police, and why they aren’t our allies in the Occupy movement today: “Cops are only “on your side” until someone orders them not to be. Then, after they’ve hung out and eaten pizza with you for weeks and come back after their shift wearing Cops For Labor shirt, suddenly they say “I agree with you and all, but now I have to make you go, and since we’re all the 99% and solidarity and everything please be nice and don’t make my job hard”. Then someone goes up on the people’s mic and says “Aren’t these cops so nice for not bashing heads like they did in Boston? Let’s give them a round of applause and not give them any grief!” Then suddenly so many occupiers leave that the occupation cannot be maintained, and they get what they want. It’s really quite an effective strategy, much more so than using mace and whatnot."
someone on FB just posted this about Occupy Madison (that is the capital of Wisconsin, right?)