Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

  1. #1
    Senior Member lorrie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    Sorry, Obama: Donald Trump Is a Populist, and You’re Not

    Sorry, Obama: Donald Trump Is a Populist, and You’re Not

    June 30, 2016 12:48 p.m.

    Not a populist. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    There are innumerable reasons to object to Donald Trump as a human being and prospective president of the United States. But yesterday, President Obama picked a strange one: that Trump is a phony populist. In a lengthy, more-than-900-word riff, Obama made the case for denying Trump the populist label.

    “Somebody else who has never shown any regard for workers, has never fought on behalf of social justice issues or making sure that poor kids are getting a decent shot at life or have health care — in fact, have worked against economic opportunity for workers and ordinary people, they don’t suddenly become a populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes,” he said.

    Obama’s assumption is that populist means a politician who promotes economic and social opportunity. But that is not really what the term means. The ideological definition of populist means traditionalist on social issues and interventionist on economic policy — the opposite of libertarianism, in other words. They often appeal to their supporters on the basis of in-group solidarity, on either a national basis, an ethnic basis, or both. They may rail against the existing structure of the government, but they tend to favor bold regulatory interventions and generous social provisions.

    Populism can also be defined as a certain kind of political style. Populists believe the government has been captured by evil and/or corrupt interests, and that it can be recaptured by a unified effort by the people (or, at least, their people). They express contempt for elites in business, government, and academia.

    Populists make their case in plain terms, and often argue that the problems themselves are simple, which explains why only corruption has prevented their easy resolution. Stylistic populism is not the same thing as substantive populism, though the two often go hand in hand. William Jennings Bryan is probably the Ur-populist in American history, most perfectly combining all the classic traits (the left-wing economic element on display in his Cross of Gold speech, the right-wing social element in his prosecutorial role in the Scopes Trial) but the tendency has appeared as well in figures like Huey Long, Charles Coughlin, and George Wallace. Whether any one of them is more easily categorized as right- or left-wing depends on the degree to which they emphasize the social or the economic element of their program. But roughly speaking, their promise is to put the government to work to fight for the people, and to defend traditional social values in some form.

    Is Trump a populist? The substantive definition is difficult to measure, since Trump is so slippery about his positions. His embrace of conventional Republican positions on taxing the rich and regulating Wall Street is far from populist, though it’s telling that Trump pretends to favor taxing the rich at higher rates. He is more unrealistic than most Republicans about promising to maintain every dollar of social security and Medicare, and also in the lavishness of what he promises to replace Obamacare with. Trump is most identifiably populist on the issues he stresses most heavily: trade and immigration, where he positions himself straightforwardly (and accurately) as the enemy of the business and cultural elite.

    In his political style, there is hardly any ambiguity: Trump is as populist as it gets. He treats essentially every figure opposed to him as hopelessly corrupt. Effective governance, in his telling, is simply a matter of wanting to help the people. Obama’s attempt to deny Trump the populist label, or to assert that a populist cannot also share Trump’s crude disparagement of outsiders (“That’s not the measure of populism. That’s nativism or xenophobia or worse”) is a misreading of the historical nature of populism.

    Even less convincing is Obama’s attempt to define himself as a populist — a label I have never heard him claim before, and for good reason. Obama ticked off progressive elements of agenda — support for education, “a tax system that’s fair,” “curbs on the excesses of our financial sector” — and concluded, “I suppose that makes me a populist.” Well, no, not really. It makes him a liberal. Obama has not argued that the rich should be taxed at higher rates because they are morally culpable, nor that Wall Street controls the government or is defined by singular greed, and he has not proposed to attack them. Indeed, Obama has made precisely the opposite argument: that rich people in general and Wall Street in particular would be better served by supporting his policies, which are more sustainable if less profitable in the short term.

    At one point in his riff about how he is a real populist, Obama wound up to this less-than-rousing crescendo:

    [S]ometimes there are simple solutions out there, but I’ve been president for seven-and-a-half years, and it turns out that’s pretty rare. And the global economy is one of those areas where there aren’t a lot of simple solutions and there aren’t a lot of shortcuts to making sure that more people have opportunity in our countries. We are going to have to educate our kids better, and that takes time. We’ve got to make sure our manufacturing sector is more dynamic and competitive, and that takes time. We’ve got to restructure our tax codes to incentive the right things and make sure workers are getting higher pay, that takes time.

    When you are arguing that there are no simple solutions, and that the non-simple solutions you favor will take a long time to work, you’re proving that you’re the opposite of a populist. The case that Obama should be making, or would be making if he were being true to the spirit of his career in public life, is that populism is not always correct. People need to be inspired, but without demonizing opposing elements in public life or offering simple solutions. The hallmark of Obama’s style has always been the promise that he could bring reason back into government, and that the policies he crafted would respect expertise. Obama is a socially cosmopolitan, intellectual technocrat, and a highly effective one. He can proudly defend that record. He’ll never out-populist Donald Trump.
    Last edited by lorrie; 06-30-2016 at 09:02 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member lorrie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    Barack Obama Reveals His Populist Blind Spot

    Barack Obama Reveals His Populist Blind Spot

    June 30, 2016 12:38 PM ET

    Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, (L) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C) and U.S. President Barack Obama take part in a news conference during the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa, Canada, on June 29, 2016.

    A misreading of history from the presidential podium

    At a press conference in Canada on Wednesday, President Obama indulged himself in what he referred to as “a rant” about the meaning of the word “populist.” Like most rants, it was more spirited than factual—and it revealed an interesting blind spot in the way American liberals construe U.S. history.

    Obama’s trigger was the use of the word “populism” to describe the divisive and conspiratorial politics of Donald Trump. “I’m not prepared to concede the notion that some of the rhetoric that’s been popping up is populist,” the president declared during a joint appearance with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

    Populism, he insisted, has to do with protecting the little guy against powerful corporate interests, guaranteeing educational opportunity regardless of wealth, and insuring a fair shake for workers. “I suppose that makes me a populist,” Obama said.

    “They don’t suddenly become a populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes,” he said. “That’s not the measure of populism; that’s nativism or xenophobia … or it’s just cynicism,” he continued. “Somebody who labels us versus them, or engages in rhetoric about how we’re going to look after ourselves and take it to the other guy, that’s not the definition of populism.”

    In fact, the history of American populism is full of nativism and xenophobia, not to mention racism and religious bigotry. This used to be widely understood.
    Populism, American-style, has its roots in the economic upheaval of the early industrial age, when subsistence farming gave way to modern trade-based society. In the late 19th century, farmers found themselves increasingly dependent on railroads to take their crops to distant markets. Controlled by trans-Atlantic financiers and their hand-picked elected officials, the railroads were exactly the sort of powerful corporate interest that Obama had in mind.

    The Farmers Alliance movement of the 1870s and 1880s—with support from some labor organizations—evolved into a Populist party that surged to national prominence in the 1896 presidential election. Stoked by resentment over the crushing recession of 1893, the Populists helped to lift William Jennings Bryan to the Democratic nomination at a convention where Bryan denounced international financiers in his famous “Cross of Gold” speech.

    “The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer,” declared Bryan, in the egalitarian tones that earned him the nickname, “the Great Commoner.” “The merchant at the cross-roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York; the farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day … is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain; the miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth … are as much business men as the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world.”

    On this note, modern liberals like Obama bring their account of Populism to a ringing end. In this, they’ve followed the lead of author Thomas Frank, whose 2004 bestseller “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” spun a theory of modern politics from a potted history of Midwestern populism. The trouble is, Populism did not end with the 1896 campaign.

    By marrying into the Democratic Party, which was dominated by the Jim Crow South, the Populists hitched their wagon to the politics of racism, nativism, and xenophobia. Their conspiratorial view of economics originally led them to reach out to downtrodden African-Americans and oppressed immigrants as fellow soldiers in the battle between us-and-them. But in the first two decades of the 20th century, those same attitudes became entangled with notions of nefarious Yankees, Jewish manipulators, and wage-draining immigrants.

    This was the zenith of the Ku Klux Klan, which rose in the years after World War I to political influence from California to Indiana, Oregon to Colorado. “The Klan of the twenties might be best understood as a populist organization,” writes Shawn Lay, editor of “The Invisible Empire in the West.”

    Thomas Watson of Georgia epitomized the rancid turn. Starting out as a friend of the little guy, the Populist firebrand morphed into a hateful, xenophobic, and deeply divisive figure. Bryan, too, experienced this ugly evolution. A generation after his 1896 triumph, Bryan climbed the stage at the 1924 Democratic Convention to deliver a speech against a platform plank that would have repudiated the Klan. In helping to defeat the progressive measure, Bryan spoke “with his old-time fire and enthusiasm,” eyewitness Elmer Davis reported in the New York Times.

    Populism is not an agenda; it is a way of viewing the world. It can come from the left or the right. It can be progressive or reactionary—or both, in an incoherent mix. It is simply the political expression of the free-floating sense that power corrupts, that those who have power conspire to keep it at the expense of humane and patriotic values. There is a streak of populism is virtually every American—it’s no accident that the opening words of the Constitution are “We the people.” But as long as people are capable of hatreds, resentments, and small-mindedness, populism will never be as simple as Barack Obama would like it to be.

    And that, alas, will be a long, long time.

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 03-01-2016, 04:29 PM
  2. Replies: 4
    Last Post: 08-31-2015, 05:44 PM
  3. Republicans Wary of Donald Trump’s Populist Tone on Taxes
    By JohnDoe2 in forum illegal immigration News Stories & Reports
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 08-31-2015, 05:44 PM
  4. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 07-19-2015, 09:53 PM
  5. Donald Trump: I won't do anything to help Barack Obama
    By Newmexican in forum Other Topics News and Issues
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 04-22-2011, 11:32 AM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts