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Wed Jun 24, 2020, 08:15 AM

What is a populist?

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/02/what-is-populist-trump/516525/

<snip>
No definition of populism will fully describe all populists. That’s because populism is a “thin ideology” in that it “only speaks to a very small part of a political agenda,” according to Cas Mudde, a professor at the University of Georgia and the co-author of Populism: A Very Short Introduction. An ideology like fascism involves a holistic view of how politics, the economy, and society as a whole should be ordered. Populism doesn’t; it calls for kicking out the political establishment, but it doesn’t specify what should replace it. So it’s usually paired with “thicker” left- or right-wing ideologies like socialism or nationalism.

Populists are dividers, not uniters, Mudde told me. They split society into “two homogenous and antagonistic groups: the pure people on the one end and the corrupt elite on the other,” and say they’re guided by the “will of the people.” The United States is what political scientists call a “liberal democracy,” a system “based on pluralism—on the idea that you have different groups with different interests and values, which are all legitimate,” Mudde explained. Populists, in contrast, are not pluralist. They consider just one group—whatever they mean by “the people”—legitimate.

<snip>
“[P]opulists only lose if ‘the silent majority’—shorthand for ‘the real people’—has not had a chance to speak, or worse, has been prevented from expressing itself,” explains Jan-Werner Müller, a professor at Princeton University and the author of What Is Populism? “Hence the frequent invocation of conspiracy theories by populists: something going on behind the scenes has to account for the fact that corrupt elites are still keeping the people down. … f the people’s politician doesn’t win, there must be something wrong with the system.”

One might expect this argument to fail once populists enter government and become the establishment. But no: Populists—ranging from the revolutionary socialist Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to the religious conservative Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey—have managed to portray themselves as victims even at the height of their power, blaming their shortcomings on sabotage by shadowy domestic or foreign elites.

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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply What is a populist? (Original post)
kentuck Jun 2020 OP
JonLP24 Jun 2020 #1
Hortensis Jun 2020 #4
JonLP24 Jun 2020 #6
Humanist_Activist Jun 2020 #15
Hortensis Jun 2020 #8
JonLP24 Jun 2020 #10
Hortensis Jun 2020 #11
Doc_Technical Jun 2020 #2
lagomorph777 Jun 2020 #3
Tom Rinaldo Jun 2020 #5
Hortensis Jun 2020 #9
Tom Rinaldo Jun 2020 #13
Hortensis Jun 2020 #18
Tom Rinaldo Jun 2020 #19
Hortensis Jun 2020 #20
Tom Rinaldo Jun 2020 #24
Hortensis Jun 2020 #26
Tom Rinaldo Jun 2020 #27
Hortensis Jun 2020 #28
Hortensis Jun 2020 #7
BannonsLiver Jun 2020 #12
JonLP24 Jun 2020 #21
Hotler Jun 2020 #14
WhiskeyGrinder Jun 2020 #16
empedocles Jun 2020 #17
Drunken Irishman Jun 2020 #22
brooklynite Jun 2020 #23
JonLP24 Jun 2020 #25
Caliman73 Jun 2020 #29

Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 08:16 AM

1. Differences in populism between the 2 parties

RW populism is pretty much fascism.
This is the DU member formerly known as JonLP24.

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 08:47 AM

4. Umhm. Defined by the current leaders, the LW version was class warfare

populism, with a leader who believes in universalist systems. The RW leader is trying to impose a hierarchical authoritarian kleptocracy.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #4)


Response to Hortensis (Reply #4)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:55 AM

15. Class warfare has already been declared by the rich onto the rest of us, how dare we attempt to...

Defend ourselves.

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:10 AM

8. Suspect my moving most of my comment to its own post

lead to your deleted one, Jon. Sorry.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #8)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:19 AM

10. I misread your post so I sent you a reply that had nothing to do with what you said

It was very embarrassing so I deleted it.
This is the DU member formerly known as JonLP24.

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #10)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:22 AM

11. Oh, been there, done that! :)

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 08:22 AM

2. Demagogues

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 08:35 AM

3. A euphemism for "unpopular and crazy?"

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 08:50 AM

5. I disagree with significant portions of this academic description

I have no problem with the insight that Populism is a "thin ideology", that is a useful and accurate insight. In the abstract Populism does not entail a standard checklist of policy positions or a specific ideological orientation, which is why there are those who can be described as "Populist" from each side of the political spectrum, and even from the center. There do not tend to be populist theoreticians, though individual theoreticians of differing ideologies can have "populist tendencies"

Democracy at its essence is a populist model for political organization. Democracy has no specific ideology beyond core populism, and in that regard it differs from many other forms of government in that Democracy is inherently organized so as to identify and reflect the "will of the people" in regards to decision making by a society.

Some who espouse populism do so as demagogues, in order to gain political leverage over opposing forces by seeking to rally to their side large elements of the population who have substantial grievances against the status quo. In many cases this type of so called populist holds little or no allegiance to the true interests of those who they claim to champion. It is a pose taken for expedient reasons. Many if not most demagogues pose as populists, but that doesn't mean that they are populists in the true sense of that term. They are demagogues, and the distinction is both real and significant.

I believe that those quoted above tend to conflate populists with demagogues. There is no institute that issues formal accreditation for those who are then entitled to be identified as populists. Demagogues often self proclaim themselves as populists, as that is consistent with their strategy for seizing power. However many great and esteemed positive movement leaders can just as easily (if not more so) be described as "populists". Many of those who built the organized labor movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries can be deemed as populists. Same for many in the abolition and women's suffrage movements. Many would consider someone like Martin Luther King Jr. to be a true populist.

True populists identify real divisions in a society (rather than seek to manufacture them) and then seek to redress significant imbalances that those divisions reflect in the distribution of power, rights and resources among the populous as a whole. They by definition no more "split society" by calling attention to potential injustices relative to the haves and have nots among us than do Black Lives Matter activists split our society along racial lines by calling out the lesser valuation that institutionalized racism places on black lives relative to white lives.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Reply #5)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:16 AM

9. Yours is the imagining of earnest supporters of change,

Tom, but, although some are always attracted, those are not what define and make populist movements the tools to destroy nations they so often are.

Your "true," defining populists have to be the ones who make it possible for leaders to overthrow governments by harnessing their aggressive antagonism to "the establishment." I don't know if Mudde said it above, but populist leaders can be of almost any ideology and still harness that energy to their ends. Just need to be charismatic, strongman leaders who can convince potential followers that they'll provide invincible mobs to join and roll over everyone else. No need to go into much detail about what comes next. Angry energy never asks to get it in writing, much less reads the small print.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #9)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:35 AM

13. A populist movement can be a tool to destroy a nation. Or it can be a tool to redeem one

The Civil Rights movement was/is a redemptive one and it is broadly populist. It serves to both honor and extend the lofty ideals articulated at the founding of our Republic. The environmental movement in most regards is a populist movement. At times it somewhat oversimplifies it's adversaries under the label of "Big Oil" but there is some legitimate basis for that formulation. Some of those occupying elite strata of our society are willing to threaten the long term global health of our planet and life upon it for their own short term self interests. That fits within the Populist rubric.

A healthy populist movement is inoculated against false demagogues when a significant percentage of those who make up the base of that movement are deeply involved in studying and understanding the issue(s) focused on. That is true of many positive populist movements which then are more likely to look to principled and ethical leaders from their midst for leadership. Without that safeguard however populism can easily be turned toward negative ends by unscrupulous "leaders".

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Reply #13)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:08 AM

18. Problem is, they almost never redeem. Populist leaders

almost always turn out to be -- at best -- incompetent leaders or they wouldn't have NEEDED to adopt populist tactics in an end run to get power. It's a natural sifting.

Those capable of redeeming a nation seek power forthrightly by honest persuasion of majorities to vote for them. You know, campaign like Biden, and Obama. And they work hard to build confidence in their nation's future, as they are as always doing, instead of inflaming dissatisfaction and resentment at "the establishment" that must always be destroyed rather than fixed.

Maybe examine the METHODS populist leaders typically use and ask what kind of government those methods would be continued in. Leaders who, for instance, seek power through election tampering are incredibly more likely to use their power to expand their tampering to keep power than they are to fix the system they helped break. We SEE this.

Same for leaders who routinely deceive people in pursuit of power (which populist leaders always do, usually styling their power seeking as a reform movement). They're not going to institute ethical, transparent government. They're going to co-opt what they've taken over and continue the deceit that worked so well as they build on it. We SEE this.

Part of the problem is the word "populist." It sounds like it's of and for "the people." But it's not. It's an alternative means of getting power when "the people" approached honestly won't give it to them.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #18)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:27 AM

19. I think the crux of this debate revolves around the terms "populist movement" vs "populist leader"

It reflects a cart before the horse potential problem. If a supposedly "populist leader" is trying to advance himself/herself through a preexisting political structure by seeking to develop a political following by exploiting ongoing social divisions for his/her own political ends, that is often a formula for danger. In a nut shell it is a wanna be leader trying to corral currents of social discontent into a force of followers that can propel him or her into power. Donald Trump fits that profile. On the other end of that spectrum lies a person like Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. They initially rose to civic prominence through their long and hard involvement at the grass roots level building true movements for social justice, in other words they were elevated by the respect they legitimately earned via their accomplishments seeking justice for those denied it.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Reply #19)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:40 AM

20. Good national leaders try to draw everyone

and serve everyone (or at least "everyone" as defined and possible in their era). That's how we know them.

They almost always invoke some populist themes to draw in those that appeals to, just as they use religious themes, youth themes, stability themes, family themes, business themes, etc. That's not the same as being a populist movement. Again, go read Mudde for understanding what those are.

Maybe listen to Biden, and Obama when he speaks, and listen for the parts meant to speak to Sanders' populists without feeding any of the populist-style negativisms some are driven by. They'll speak to the everyday concerns Sanders ran on, like medical care, without claiming they're going to have to dismantle "the establishment" version before they can have it.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #20)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:53 AM

24. A good national leader has a strong moral compass

Sometimes it is not possible to continue to please everybody who is perfectly pleased with how the status quo defends their own special interests when that status quo is severely letting down the vital interests of the vast majority of the public. The Civil War was fought in large part because those who defended slavery could not continue to be tolerated inside one collective big national tent without allowing the trafficking of humans to continue. FDR once famously said "I welcome their hatred" in regards to those entrenched capital interests who opposed his "New Deal". Nelson Mandala was a brilliant and wise leader but he literally engaged in armed struggle against the forces of Apartheid in South Africa before embarking on a policy of national reconciliation after Apartheid was vanquished.

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Reply #24)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:59 AM

26. Yes. And must always be very clear-eyed about what is moral.

Nothing's more common than lesser people deceiving themselves that what they want is the moral thing to do.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #26)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 11:02 AM

27. Here we reach full agreement

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Response to Tom Rinaldo (Reply #27)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 11:07 AM

28. :) Nice!

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:02 AM

7. The most telling proof that populism is more a harnessed negative energy

than an at-best weak ideology is that both our left and right wing populist movements were able to woo followers from each other and that when Sanders withdrew many of his angry populists joined Trump's movement.

This is typical of populist movements in general. The socialist and fascist revolutionaries of 100 years ago were constantly trying to draw people from each other; that's why "Socialist" was added to the party name of archconservative fascist Adolph Hitler.

Those drawn to populist leaders come in all types, but I've read most of those drawn to these movements tend to combine economic progressivism with social conservatism. To the point that this mixture is fairly defining of populist movements in general; and notably, we do see that in both Sanders' and Trump's movements. Sanders' was far more economically oriented, Trump's is far more socially conservative, but this helps explain how both leaders could draw many of the same people regardless of the claimed end goals.

For the typical type whose aggressive antagonism fuels these movements, the passion is far more about attacking and destroying what is than about what comes after. And this sort usually enthusiastically embraces fascistic tactics to take down "the establishment," such as character assassination and election theft, regardless of who they're currently following.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 09:26 AM

12. I've always thought of it as politics for low info folks

Who have trouble with nuanced concepts and need simple bumper sticker style messaging and solutions for complex problems. That applies to the left and right versions in my experience.

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Response to BannonsLiver (Reply #12)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:42 AM

21. Like Hope and Change

Actually I'm very interested in solving the root causes of complex problems but a lot of mainstream politicians don't have the political will to solve them.

You think Biden was campaigning on solutions to complex problems? He was running on beat Trump
This is the DU member formerly known as JonLP24.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:01 AM

16. As a stand-alone political ideology, it's vague, tricky and poorly defined; as a frame or flavor on

other ideologies, it ultimately ends up diluting them. Populism relies on the idea that only certain kinds of people are "real" or "ordinary," and while the definition depends on a variety of things (including one's own identity), as a result it relies on some people being "others," no matter how "inclusive" the rest of your ideology might be.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:01 AM

17. 'Populist' is an abused term, imo

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:44 AM

22. My guess is it's different depending on country & era. In the US post-1960? Racist.

The populist movement in the US since the 1960s has been dominated by racists who blame blacks and other minorities for their lot in life.

The last true national populist who didn't espouse racist bullshit was likely Henry Wallace.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:48 AM

23. Populism is broadly aimed at "for the people" (e.g. "us") vs power interests and outsiders ("them")

It plays on the perception that "I" or "we" are disadvantaged by entities with power and influence who impose that power on "us" (they tell us what to do, they get tax cuts and Govt support that we don't get, etc.). It's worth noting that, like libertarianism, it can have both a leftist and rightist streak.

The high water mark of the populist movement was in the 1880s when the People's Party elected several House members and Senators from rural States and districts, and who targeted "Wall Street" and "Big Business" that was making farming uneconomic.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #23)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 10:59 AM

25. Your first paragraph. Is that populism or just the truth?

We do give tax cuts, we also give subsidies, and corporate welfare while simultaneously slashing the safety net. Big business pours a lot of money into politics or whoever has money can get influence over what they want. The homeless problem is largely ignored other than using police in case they are trespassing somewhere which is a crime you can't avoid committing if you are homeless.

Carlin tells a lot of truth here.



Some contemporary authors have characterized current conditions in the United States as oligarchic in nature.[13][14] Simon Johnson wrote that "the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent", a structure which he delineated as being the "most advanced" in the world.[15] Jeffrey A. Winters wrote that "oligarchy and democracy operate within a single system, and American politics is a daily display of their interplay."[16] The top 1% of the U.S. population by wealth in 2007 had a larger share of total income than at any time since 1928.[17] In 2011, according to PolitiFact and others, the top 400 wealthiest Americans "have more wealth than half of all Americans combined."[18][19][20][21]

In 1998, Bob Herbert of The New York Times referred to modern American plutocrats as "The Donor Class"[22][23] (list of top donors)[24] and defined the class, for the first time,[25] as "a tiny group—just one-quarter of 1 percent of the population—and it is not representative of the rest of the nation. But its money buys plenty of access."[22]

French economist Thomas Piketty states in his 2013 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that "the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed."[26]

A study conducted by political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University was released in April 2014,[27] which stated that their "analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts." The study analyzed nearly 1,800 policies enacted by the US government between 1981 and 2002 and compared them to the expressed preferences of the American public as opposed to wealthy Americans and large special interest groups.[28] It found that wealthy individuals and organizations representing business interests have substantial political influence, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to none. The study did concede that "Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise." Gilens and Page do not characterize the US as an "oligarchy" per se; however, they do apply the concept of "civil oligarchy" as used by Jeffrey Winters with respect to the US. Winters has posited a comparative theory of "oligarchy" in which the wealthiest citizens – even in a "civil oligarchy" like the United States – dominate policy concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection.[29]

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy#:~:text=The%20modern%20United%20States%20has,little%20or%20no%20independent%20influence.

For some reason if you are opposed to this you are labeled a "radical".
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Response to brooklynite (Reply #23)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 11:14 AM

29. We also have to think of the term in context of the dominant social and political paradigm.

As you said, populism is broadly aimed at "for the people" It is definitely ripe for coercion by leaders whose agenda is merely to seek power. You can see that in Venezuela, Chavez's election and early years were about redistributing the resources to the people, but as opposition from the wealthy in Venezuela and from outside, as well as the weakening of the Petroleum market took its toll, the movement became about consolidating power. Right wing populism is inherently about creating the "correct hierarchy" usually built on race and class.

The reality however, supported by research is that the top 10% of distributed wealth in the US get about 90% plus, of their desired policy goals enshrined into legislation while the 90% have a less than 30% chance of favorable legislation.

That would tend to influence the development of "populist" movements.

The attribution of who is the "elite" is also different in left an right circles. Leftists see large wealthy corporations and people as the elite, plus the politicians who support that wealth distribution. Right wingers see a more nebulous mix of "academics, certain politicians, and groups of "other" (usually based on race and ethnicity) as the elites.

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