Fascist-style Populism

Populism is a political appeal to what is popular among the population, and can be of the left or the right. It seems, most usually, and especially here in the US of A, it is harnessed by the right, as in the Koch-funded “spontaneous” “grass roots” Populist Tea Party, a national movement that appeared to spring up over night across the country, in a phenomenon gawked at by mass media as strong proof of a massive popular uprising against the self-proclaimed Hope and Change president, and swept a host of unapologetically angry Tea Party radicals into Congress to transform the Republican party and the US government. What we see on TV, and via social media, becomes our reality.

Just off hand, you might think that populism is good for democracy, the will of the people expressed through a mass movement. It can go either way. Most often populist movements are taken over by demagogues. The ideas are already popular — the government is a bunch of clueless elitist eggheads who don’t share our values. deciding, against our will, what we actually want! Harness this anger and you are a populist. When times are tough, populism swings right, toward authoritarianism. Here is an insightful bit from a discussion with David Sirota on a recent Deconstructed podcast:

So, in other words, human beings being thrown out of their homes, were the foam on the runway for the banks, which really tells you what you need to know about what the overall policy goal of the Obama administration was. They made a decision that they had to save Wall Street which, not incidentally, had given the most amount of money to Barack Obama’s campaign in the history of presidential politics. They made the decision that to save the economy, they had to first and foremost save Wall Street.

Now, maybe you could say it’s not corruption. Maybe you say it’s ideology. Maybe you just say it’s a principled disagreement or a principled belief. And there’s one phrase that that Geithner, I believe it was Geithner, who said: That’s how we saved the economy, but lost the country.

And what’s important to know is how historically anomalous that is from the Democratic Party itself. FDR, not that he was a perfect president, but he came in during an economic crisis. And there’s a lot of evidence — a lot of his quotes, a lot of the things he said — that he understood that if there was going to be a bailout or investments, it had to be bottom up. And he understood that it had to be bottom up for three reasons: It was morally right, people were starving; it was economically a better policy; and then he also made all sorts of statements, saying that this is the way to stop the rise of fascism — that if you do not help the working class in a crisis, then you are creating the conditions for authoritarians and fascists to take advantage of the desperation. And fascism was on the rise in the Great Depression here in the United States!

And so what 2009-2010 leading into the Trump-era suggests is that FDR was right, because the Democrats, the modern version of the Democrats, didn’t do what FDR did. And it ended up creating the conditions for Trump.

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FDR, not that he was a perfect president, but he came in during an economic crisis. And there’s a lot of evidence — a lot of his quotes, a lot of the things he said — that he understood that if there was going to be a bailout or investments, it had to be bottom up. And he understood that it had to be bottom up for three reasons: It was morally right, people were starving; it was economically a better policy; and then he also made all sorts of statements, saying that this is the way to stop the rise of fascism — that if you do not help the working class in a crisis, then you are creating the conditions for authoritarians and fascists to take advantage of the desperation. And fascism was on the rise in the Great Depression here in the United States!

Think of the enraged army of MAGA populists across the country who now routinely call to violently threaten Republican legislators who “disloyally” voted for an uncontroversial bipartisan infrastructure bill they negotiated, a bill that will benefit their communities, a long overdue allocation of resources for the mutual good — and the good of US big business, by the way — that Trump touted when he was president (though he was too busy with other things to do anything about it). According to our right-wing populists, all we really need are strictly constitutional gun laws that respect our sacred Second Amendment right to bring our non-regulated guns wherever we want, as part of goddamned political speech. If you think that’s a problem, cucks, suck lead.

This kind of enraged populism is the necessary precondition for mob rule and autocracy.

Mr. Biden? Mr. Garland? Congress? Senate supporters of the sacred filibuster over the right to vote?

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