Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"If America Turns to Fascism, Populism Will Be at Its Heart."

Several months ago, I wrote a book review (see Internet Review of Books and my review of "Fascism: Why Not Here?" by Brian E. Fogarty) about a political history that has made me think ever since.

(Title quote is taken from Fogarty's excellent book.)

Lately, I keep seeing similar ideas popping up--mostly in response to the anti-intellectual, folksy, populist appeal of people such as Sarah Palin and up-and-coming Tea Party types.

Aw, heck, who couldn't appreciate drinkin' a beer with a politician? That's what we want from those guys n' gals. We don't want them to be smarter than us or anythin', right? You betcha.

Call me a snob (and I've been called a "snotty liberal elitist," lately, which I thought was very funny, actually, and it made me laugh an elitist snort of triumph); I really don't care.  

I demand more; I demand wisdom, good ideas, and a wide understanding of international politics as well as history; I demand people who can speak without dropping their g's (because that slangy, folksy gibberish just sounds, frankly, slow).

Working with profoundly gifted kids (as I like to do) is like attending the smartest cocktail party you were ever invited to--sans cocktails. It's a tennis match of fascinating ideas about absolutely everything; it makes me hopeful for the future, and it challenges and amuses me at the same time.

I don't feel that way when I watch any of these populist politicians on the news. Rather, I feel a sinking, ill feeling...could people really be that stupid? Apparently, yes, in some cases, they are.

But I actually think there's a way out: it boils down to education and spreading the truth.

Jon Meacham's editorial this week in NEWSWEEK (7/12/2010, "The Right Kind of American Populism") speaks to exactly the same issues. 

He explains how " the age of [Andrew] Jackson, American populism was about money; later, in the age of George Wallace and Richard Nixon, it became more about culture...Given the clinical economic and political facts of the hour, we should be living through a Jacksonian era of hostility to the rich and the well connected. Those whom Jackson called "the humble members of society--the farmers, mechanics, and laborers" ought to be generating substantial political pressure to exact reparations from, and impose severe new regulations on, the plutocratic few...And yet the pitchforks are being brandished not to encourage government to curb the excesses of the elite but to warn the citizenry that the government has turned into a socialistic threat to free enterprise."

Meacham (with whom I do not always agree) nailed it, I think;  the bottom line is that the "humble members" of society have been inundated with propaganda and fear-mongering lies by the very people who profit by keeping them down.

Will they wake up and realize it and fight back (I mean "fight" in a good way--by voting)?

Will government prove its viability by doing good for the people--finally? 

Maybe if that happens--if people let it happen--they will finally wake up and realize who's really been keeping them poor and oppressed and away from the American Dream. 

Maybe it's the "plutocratic few," but maybe it's also themselves.


  1. Sounds like an article that I should read...unfortunately I'm already one of the convinced....there are many others who SHOULD read it but won't and they are the ones who need to understand what this all means to them. People, for the most part, are naive and not well read....this is how we got to where we are now...

    That just doesn't work for me!

  2. Exactly the problem. It takes a basic understanding of history to understand his allusions, but even barring that, a simple online search of the confusing terms would be a start.

    I think, though, that if some people realize how badly they've been duped...well, maybe it's so bad they can't even bear to admit it. Not until it's too late, anyway.

    Thanks for reading!