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August 26, 2016

Trump Isn't the Real Populist -- It's the Elites Running Our Institutions, Relentlessly Undermining Our Institutions (Which They Hold to be Corrupt and Racist), Who are the Real Popullists. And the Dangerous Ones.

First of all, I'm not even sure what "populist" means. It seems to me to mean someone who believes the people running things are dishonest, self-serving, and inept.

Who disagrees with that? I don't remember, until this very contentious year, conservatives arguing so vigorously that we must Trust our Beloved Government and of course our Venerable White-Jacketed Expert Class.

Before Trump, populism -- generalized, inchoate resistance/defiance of self-proclaimed authority -- was generally acknowledged to be an important and vital part of conservatism. The heat in its blood, actually.

Now a lot of people are screaming about "populism" as if it's Jacobinism or Robspierrism.

But that's not the point of this interesting article. The author here makes the case, effectively, that the left has been deliberately and constantly undermining the pillars of our system of ordered liberty for 70 years, even as they have moved into positions of controlling the institutions they brand as corrupt, imperialist, and racist.

It's like Obama, president of the United States, running as perpetual outsider and external critic of government.

Consider the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates. If there is anywhere we can look into the heart of the sort of people running the world, it is here. The Left has lauded this author up and down as one of their most outstanding thinkers for his writing on race. I do not wish to enter into the quality of his arguments here. Rather, I want to call attention to the attitude or spirit that pervades his work.

...

I’m a Victim of My Privileged Circumstances

Only the accidents of partisan politics obscure this affinity. Because Coates’ brand of racial politics is typically associated with the progressive movement, we tend to see it as a thing entirely apart from, even antagonistic to, the populist fervor percolating among supposedly conservative groups. But if we peek beneath the superficial postures of left-right politics, we will find the same fundamental mentality evident on both sides of the divide—the same eternal rage against the powers that be. It would no doubt cause Coates and his many besotted admirers horror to learn they are close spiritual kin to the Trumpistas of the world. Nonetheless, it’s true.


Of course, the seething resentment that burns in every paragraph of Coates’ work did not originate with him. This attitude of permanent disaffection has been the primary psychological note of modern progressivism ever since the uprisings of the 1960s. Over the last half-century, even as the Left has conquered one institution after another—the university, the media, the federal bureaucracy—this disposition to revolt has remained the chief feature of the progressive mind.

It is why the people running our civilization have never developed the virtues necessary to carry out their duties adequately. Determined to always think of themselves as persons out of power, they never learned to regard themselves as persons with power, and all the responsibilities power entails. They never learned to imagine the kinds of moral formation that would fit a person for rule, rather than for protest.

This is why we can listen to a close advisor to the president—a woman with access to the most effective levers of power in the world—declare her intention to “speak truth to power.” But as for speaking truth as power, as for directing their policies with the wisdom and prudence requisite to their offices, the populist elite in control of the Western world have never learned how to do this, because their own modes of juvenile self-fashioning have precluded them from ever admitting that they do indeed occupy such offices.

This is the dimension missing from most analyses of our present political circumstances—the historical dimension. We find ourselves saddled with a teetering institutional structure without considering the decades of populist agitation that went into making this wreckage.


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posted by Ace at 11:42 AM

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