Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell define populism as an ideology that “pits 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”.
Populism is a natural phenomenon. It is spontaneous. It is disruptive. Unfortunately, it is mindless. Populism arises from emotional feelings having no base in logic or problem solving but expresses accurately a concern for personal wellbeing. Losing financial stability, due process, even survivability, is all that needs to be understood.
This explains why Donald still has a devoted base. His irrational behavior and disruptive style have value. It does not matter whether law is honored; laws are part of the problem. It does not matter whether fairness and equality exist for other citizens; there is no fairness or equality.
However, this brand of populism, one of intensely personalized feelings, does not take into account two-thirds of the US citizens who are willing to express discontent and are willing to rationally redirect the intent of elitists and socially abusive individuals in order to protect what good there is at the moment. ‘What good there is’ is usually intellectual in nature: abstract issues like equality, world leadership, status in the world economy, and security through reasoned and strong policy.
With good leadership, populism is a valuable phenomenon. Consider names like Joan of Arc, a teenage girl who almost liberated France from British domination; Cesar Chavez leading the farmworkers in the 1960’s; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage who led the women’s suffrage campaign from the 1840’s to the 1920’s; Martin Luther King, who led the Civil Rights movement.
It isn’t always true that there are good leaders. Populism has similarities to a cattle stampede – rationality and thoughtful planning do not exist. This is the case today. Populists have chosen a wholly dysfunctional leader. The base finds comfort in the destructive behavior that rankles the status quo. The populists are comforted that elites have been interrupted in their routines – but to what avail?
The abstract qualities of democracy, rule of law, and world leadership are draining away. The government is no longer governing; social communication has become slipshod and misdirected; advancements in immigration, prejudice, and criminal justice are being dismantled – issues that have meaning to the populists. The elitists and abusive others have greater opportunity to abuse as the government wallows in distraction.
Frankly, mariner takes umbrage at the distraction that erodes what little grace there is in the US today. Populists had no right to take that away. Grace is fragile; dealing with real issues raining down on our society – including populist issues – is deferred and disadvantaged by the leader the populists have chosen. Perhaps mariner takes umbrage because he knows neither the leader nor the base will ever know the damage they caused or have any awareness of responsibility for their incompetence.
Populists in Power, Daniele Albertazzi, Duncan McDonnell
Routledge, Feb 11, 2015 – 218 pages