The Truth About Donald Trump’s Populism

Roundup
tags: election 2016, populism, Trump



Rick Perlstein is the author of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (2014), Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), a New York Times bestseller picked as one of the best nonfiction books of the year by over a dozen publications, and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history.

Why has Donald Trump been so successful? Matt Taibbi, in Rolling Stone, thinks he has the answer.

He writes, “Reporters have focused quite a lot on the crazy/race-baiting/nativist themes in Trump’s campaign.” Taibbi, though, will not be bamboozled: “These comprise a very small part of his usual presentation. His speeches increasingly are strikingly populist in their content.” Trump’s pitch, which Taibbi seems at least partially to accept: “He’s rich, he won’t owe anyone anything upon elec­tion, and therefore he won’t do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e. approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people.” 

And though Taibbi insists this insight lifts him above the common scribbling herd, he’s hardly alone. Ryan Lizza, in the New Yorker, quoted conservative intellectual Henry Olsen to likewise suggest that Trump is thriving because he “is posing a new question: To what extent should the GOP be the advocates for those struggling in the modern economy?” 

I attended the same Trump rally in Plymouth, N.H., as Taibbi. Matt should clean the wax from his ears: I heard the crazy and the race-baiting and the nativist themes raining down like dirty dollar bills at a strip joint.

But leave aside that Mexicans and Syrians are also “ordinary people” who struggle in the modern economy. And that you can’t trust anything Don­ald Trump says.

No, the core inanity here cuts much deeper. It’s an ignorance of a simple historical fact: Every fascist achieves and cements his power by pledging to rescue ordinary people from the depredations of economic elites. That’s how fas­cism works. ...




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