The New Exchange

You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

12/08/2017 10:05 am  #1

Why Unchecked Populism is Wrong for America

Why Unchecked Populism is Wrong for America

I don’t like populism. Let’s get that out of the way at the outset. If that seems shocking, so be it. How can this be so? Allow me to explain.

First, let’s define our terms. Many people understand populism as an attempt to better represent the common man against abuse by the “establishment”. That's a good thing. And, populist politicians can do a valuable service in giving voice to constituencies that do not feel represented by the existing political elite.  If that were all that populism represents, I would be a populist myself.

But populism can be properly defined as an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic camps, ‘the pure common people’ and an irredeemably ‘corrupt elite’. And it argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people, with the elites shut out entirely.

Elitism is the opposite of populism. Elitism accepts the same worldview, but it assigns the role of good guy to the elites, and views the common man as an unwashed mob. So, they are simply opposite sides of the same ideological coin.

So, what are the dangers of unchecked populism? Well, populism does not stop at gaining protections for the common man. It continues into unrestrained rejection of anything perceived as elite; education, science, expertise, competence etc.

And, we are seeing that today. The press is not to be believed. Scientists have their expertise rejected. Institutions such as the FBI are politicized and attacked.
Populism demands that you reject every opinion except those of your leaders.

Once expertise is rejected, the way is clear to reject leadership by scientists at the EPA or the department of agriculture. Those leadership positions are then filled using the criteria of political reliability. All things are politicized.

Populism, because it rejects learning and expertise, is intellectually bereft. Populism doesn’t demand the effort required to understand the best that has been thought and said. Populism celebrates the quick slogan, the outrageous statement, the easy ignorant assertion. Populism is blind to intellect, and substitutes emotion.

Since populists reject knowledge and expertise, they are very prone to be taken in by charismatic hucksters and the cult of personality. Every loudmouth sitting at the bar becomes an expert.

Millions seriously watch Sean Hannity speak confidently about climate change. This, despite the fact that Hannity never graduated from college, and the only experience that he has had with warming is watching ice melt in his glass of scotch. No matter. He sounds knowledgeable. And he fits a scientific issue into a political worldview effortlessly.

Millions hang on every word of a Goldman Sachs trader who now plays a populist at Breitbart. And is not the country being ruled by a billionaire who plays a populist on TV?  Hucksters. And a cult of personality.

Populism is tribalistic. It thrives on having villains to condemn.  Good v. Evil. John McCain makes a vote you don’t like and you boo a war hero. Mitt Romney is trashed as a person before a cheering crowd. Heck, Roy Moore even depicts himself as Jesus, and you & I as Satan. Respect for different people is derided as “political correctness”. Belief -or rejection - of scientific theory is determined by tribal identification.

Ultimately Populism & elitism are based upon believing that one side or the other has a monopoly on truth and virtue, and that the other has nothing to contribute.

So, where do we turn? I suggest that we reject the dead end presented to us by populism on the one hand and elitism on the other. 

Pluralism can also be thought of as an opposite to populism. In contrast to populism and elitism, pluralism is based on the idea that society is ideally composed of different individuals and groups. Therefore, pluralists reject moral distinctions based upon tribe, but also believe that democratic politics is about taking into account diversity and reaching agreements between different positions.

Think about it.

Last edited by Goose (12/08/2017 10:31 am)

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

Board footera


Powered by Boardhost. Create a Free Forum