FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
On trying to shoehorn populism into the modern Left. Somehow. Somewhere.
I’m gonna push back a little on Salena Zito’s argument here on populism, although I certainly agree with her assessment of Elizabeth Warren:
We are in the midst of a record wealth gap between America’s rich and middle class, according to the Pew Research Centers. That has fueled the populist opposition to Washington among Main Street Americans on both sides of the political line — and [Senator Elizabeth] Warren is trying to cash in on it.
That’s fine; that’s what we do in America. But it isn’t populism, as will be seen when people do not rise up. Populism is an ideology extolling the virtues of the people against the depravities of elites — such as Harvard Law professors like Warren, according to Baylor University political science professor Curt Nichols.
Salena went on to argue that the Occupy Movement had populist themes, which is frankly absurd for the same reasons why thinking of Elizabeth Warren as a populist is absurd: if you consider the woman/movement using the very class structure that she/they apparently so adore it becomes obvious that she/they are a product of the intelligentsia, not the proletariat* . Even the liberal Huffington Post was forced to concede that OWS was not particularly bottom-up in its makeup:
The report surveyed the participants at a joint Occupy-labor movement May Day rally in New York City and found that two-thirds of those who described themselves as “actively involved” in Occupy Wall Street were white, while 80 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Those demographics aren’t representative of New York City as a whole. Only one-third of New York City residents are white, according to the report, and about 34 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
They did slightly better when compared to the USA as a whole, but not actually ‘well.’ The general population is about 63% white and about 29% have a bachelor’s degree; HuffPo kind of hinted that the whole Occupy thing was really about student loan debt, and I kind of agree with HuffPo. And don’t get me wrong, the student loan industry is a racket and an embarrassment. It is not, however, particularly a working class issue. Then again, neither was anything that Occupy Wall Street chose to talk about, specifically. Particularly when the blackshirts moved in… but that’s a topic for a different post.
Moving on… while I certainly agree that opposition to Big Business can be a populist attitude, and that Elizabeth Warren’s supposed ‘appeal’ would be in her parallel (and progressive-based) opposition to Big Business, I do think that relying on a supposed public opposition to Big Business to fuel one’s political campaign is a bad idea. That’s why I put Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) 17%‘s appeal in scare quotes. Going back to the student loan debt thing… the Occupiers weren’t particularly against corporations, as this handy graphic reminds us:
(Don’t know where it’s from originally, sorry)
…and even that completely understates the sheer number of electronic gadgetry that those kids were collectively carrying around. The Revolution was apparently to be stored on the cloud and downloaded whenever you needed it, apparently. While this does not mean that a collective movement against awful student loan debt levels is necessarily bad**, it does argue that – as usual – the media completely mis-categorized what was going on in the streets a few years ago. Then again, once the Communists, anarchists, and blackshirts took over, it didn’t matter anyway.
All of which means that we’re going to have to wait a bit longer for a real Left-populist movement to appear in this country. Assuming that we ever actually see one: there seems to be an almost formally-organized structure on the Left to choke the life out of any attempts to create one before they even start. Which is why Occupy Wall Street died an ignominious death, and the supposedly moribund Tea Party picked up a few more Senators and abruptly ended the career of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): the only avenue for a bottom-up movement in American politics is via the Right. And man, but some people don’t want to hear that…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Yes, yes, I know: using Leftist terminology is fraught with peril, but in this particular case it’s safe enough if I take a few simple precautions.
**It is far too easy to become callous about this topic. It’s apparently even easier to rationalize that callousness as something else.