Populism is afoot in the land.
Populism, taken simply, is a political ideology grounded in the belief that some elite somewhere runs things for their own good, inevitably screwing the deserving groups of society. Populist movements occur when groups of people band together seeking to overthrow this elite in the name of the “people.”
But it turns out the story is more complicated than that. Populism comes in at least two varieties: left-wing populism and right-wing populism. They share important features in common, but differ in politically significant ways.
Left-wing populists believe that society is unjustly run by an elite of corporate and wealthy persons in cooperation with their enablers in government. This cabal of “bad guys” systematically screws over the mass of people—poor, working and middle class people just trying to make a living, build good lives through access to things like public schools and affordable higher education, and enjoy the fruits of labor over the whole course of their lives.
Sound familiar? It should: I’ve just summarized the populist part of the Occupy movement.
Right-wing populism shares a skepticism of government with left-wing populism, but holds a very different group of people accountable for society’s ills. In right-wing populism, the bad guys are society’s unproductive, undeserving groups (the poor, public employees, and others who live on the public dole) along with their enablers in government. This cabal of bad people works to take money from deserving, productive people (the employed and yes, even corporations and the wealthy) to give it to people who have demonstrated their failure as people in the fact of their needing or asking for help.
Welcome to tea party America.
So it turns out that leftists and rightists share a lot in common in American politics. They both sense the good people of society are being screwed over by the bad people of society. They just define each group differently.
Need final proof? Check out the picture at the bottom of this post: it is a mashup of signs from tea party rallies and anarchist rallies against the G-20 and globalization.They say politics makes strange bedlfellows … and this time, they’re right.
All of this. The old Dixiecrats have reared their ugly heads again.
Honestly I think this is overly simplistic and it ignores how educational disenfranchisement goes hand in hand with classism in the U.S. I’m not suggesting that education makes people less racist, sexist, heterosexist, etc. But generally speaking, I do feel like there is an issue of class that people often ignore when it comes to the Tea Party. I feel it is less that the “Baggers” of poorer backgrounds are willing to hate in exchange for being paid for by corporations — I really and honestly believe many of them have been taught internalised classism. American values encourage classism. It encourages the idea that poor people are poor because they haven’t worked hard enough. Poor whites without access to education that could help them not only overcome their issues with class but expand their horizons and challenge the racism that they have been brought up with are exploited by these corporations who use their ignorance as a means for getting them to ignore the economic policies they hold. After all, if you’re a poor person who’s working your ass off in a shit job for 40 hours a week, you’re not given the educational tools to deconstruct your oppression, you don’t know why you’re working so hard for so little, and a nice man in a suit comes along and says, “It’s cause those other welfar-ing poor people are taking your money”, I feel like you’re apt to believe that because you don’t know WHY ELSE you’re stuck. Now don’t get me wrong, classism does not excuse racism and heterosexism, but to simplify that Baggers as just hateful, ignorant bands of white racists without addressing the issue of class and the exploitation that is going on… I feel that’s a classist disservice.
Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”
I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.
Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed — or at least they would if they hadn’t been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that’s a fantasy. People who can’t afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have — and sometimes they die as a result.
The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.
So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding “Yeah!”
All of this.