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November 06, 2018


David Frum wrote about this "debate" in The Atlantic, "The Real Lesson of My Debate With Steve Bannon: I argued against the false promise of what Trump's former strategist bills as populism. Then events took a strange turn."

One money quote: "I hoped to look in the face of their most self-conscious and articulate champion, Steve Bannon, and tell them: 'You will lose. You will discover what so many thugs, and bullies, and plunderers, and people who elevate themselves by subordinating and humiliating others have discovered before you: Liberal democracy is tougher than it looks'."

And I would agree with you that populism right now is a right wing phenomena although not exclusively. Venezuela is a perfect example of leftist populism. And you are right that populism is ill defined and as subject to interpretation as neo-liberalism. The common feature of this current crop of populism is that they are rooted in fascism and ethnic nationalism.

There isn't a country in the EU that does not have a party devoted to ethnic nationalism. And in places like Poland, Hungary and now Italy they are quite powerful even if they lack the majority of popular support they wish they had. I leave it one and all to figure out which country whose name begins with R has been pushing these movements in an effort to divide and destabilize Europe. They did have one great success and that was Britain and Brexit.

Because they are still largely divided into nation states with large ethnic majorities subject to these type of appeals they are more at risk. But that is not us, by which I mean the US and Canada. We are too diverse and becoming more so by the year for this to be a successful strategy. They will, of course, try and this is the essence of Trumpism and white nationalism in the US. It is a last gasp I hope of that strategy. But if it is not it soon will be.

When Jimmy Carter ran, he was called a "populist."

Then again, "The Federalist Society" is a complete misnomer.

So did Bernie Sanders. Come to think of it every politician is a populist in any democracy where the the popular vote dictates the outcome. The term is uselessly vague unless you assign it a specific meaning before you discuss it.

Populism itself means nothing more than advocating some thing or things that have popular appeal. Now what you load your gun with by way of populist ammunition is what distinguishes one populist movement from another. Doel's criticisms are foolish as he makes the same mistake he accuses the debate organizers of making. Populism isn't a left right thing. It is a perfectly valid debate within the conservative side of the equation to decide is the ammunition they will use. Bannon is pure racism and ethnic nationalism, Frum is more old school economic/class populist. You could have the same debate about populism on the left. And probably should.

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