Populism

I can’t really explain what inspired this little rant except that I heard a little blurb from a John Edwards speech this morning as I was waking up.

From Wikipedia:  Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell, in their volume Twenty-First Century Populism, define populism as pitting “a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice”.

 

I have several problems with this idea of ‘populism’ (I was not familiar with this word until I heard it associated with John Edwards).  My main problem is this idea of a “virtuous and homogenous people”.  I am a cynic.  I believe people are inherently selfish, (certainly not virtuous or altruistic) and Americans are definitely anything but homogenous.  Also, the idea of ‘others’ who are depriving the ‘people’ of rights and prosperity is pretty hard to swallow.  These ‘others’ were created by the populace, by us!  We elected them (politicians), bought their products (oil companies, Walmart etc), bought into their ideas (judges, religious leaders, teachers, lawyers), worshipped their identities (Hollywood actors, athletes).  And now we accuse them of stealing our rights, values, prosperity, voice etc!  Populism sounds a little too much like communism to me.    

 

I am optimistic about the upcoming presidential election.  I think both democrats and republicans are supporting candidates with more moderate ideas.  No more of these far left wing and far right wing candidates.  I want to see McCain vs. Obama.

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6 Responses

  1. I agree fully with your assessment that we bitch and moan about the same people that we support. Whether it be politicians, movie stars, athletes or CEO’s of major corporations… I don’t believe, however, that Obama is a “moderate” candidate. I believe that most of the democratic candidates are pretty far left while McCain is the only republican candidate that is also pretty far left(at least by republican standards)and therefore the only electable candidate.

  2. I recently finished reading a book about the era leading up to the US Civil War and I learned several interesting things about “moderate” candidates. The presidents between Jackson and Lincoln are probably the least known in US history. They were all “moderates.” It was so difficult to find common ground between north and south, that the only way to get anybody elected was to present candidates that held ambiguous views. Once elected, these presidents were never able to gain any kind of support from a sharply divided congress. Finally, after several Republican/Whig losses, Republicans decided to offer a candidate with a platform since they figured they would lose anyway. They went for principles instead of electability. This had a positive side effect. It split the democratic party. Instead of one candidate, they offered two: a moderate and a radical. Lincoln won with 37 percent of the popular vote! (For the record, after Jackson, there was Van Buren, Wm Henry Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan)

  3. I think Obama is moderate compared to Clinton. The historical perspective is interesting. I guess I am hoping that our country isn’t quite as divided over the Iraq War as we were over the Civil War. But you are probably right that the Congress is so divided that neither presidential candidate will accomplish much once elected. I realize there are a lot of far left and far right voters out there, but I am hopeful that there are still a few voters who can see some good in both sides.

  4. Perhaps we do not have many choice so we choose the one that we dislike the least and then end up complaining anyway!

  5. I guess I don’t know enough about Obama to make a fair asessment of him. Is it true that he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

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