There Is No American Right-Wing Populism

Elizabeth WarrenCould Elizabeth Warren appeal to the Tea Party because of their supposed populism? No.

In an otherwise uninspiring column, Paul Krugman made an interesting observation about the lack of right-wing rage about Citigroup raping the Dodd-Frank law, “You sometimes hear claims that the Tea Party is as opposed to bailing out bankers as it is to aiding the poor, but there’s no sign that this alleged hostility to Wall Street is having any influence at all on Republican priorities.” Yes, we do hear that. And we have been hearing it for the last five and a half years. But we have never seen it.

It has been mildly amusing to watch the Tea Party as they rant about the Constitution and bail-outs and the End of Freedom™. But if you look at who they vote for, the main thing that the Tea Party cares about is taking a hard line against abortion. They are also anti-gay and anti-immigrant. But even that is just an indication that the Tea Party movement is a group of social conservatives. As Claire Conner suggests in Wrapped in the Flag, the Tea Party is just the modern incarnation of the John Birth Society. And that’s really nothing more than a cultural movement: the good people in the Tea Party versus those takers, who just so happen to never be anyone with actual power like weapons manufacturers or bank presidents.

Over the weekend, Miles Mogulescu at Huffington Post wrote, The Speech That Could Make Elizabeth Warren the Next President of the United States. He suggested that Warren could unite people across the political spectrum, because everybody hates Wall Street, “Tea party supporters don’t like bailouts and crony capitalism any more that progressives do.” No, no, no! What is wrong with political commentators on the left? Have they been asleep the last six years?

The Tea Party did not start because a bunch of conservatives were angry about bank bailouts. They were angry — “Mad as hell!” — that a relatively small program was being created to help struggling homeowners. And they were mad that a charismatic African American president had been elected. But even that wasn’t really what was going on. They would have done nothing — Nada! Rien! Nichts! — if it hadn’t been for Fox News advertising it like it was a live Peter Pan starring Christopher Walken. And even with that, it would have died off quickly without Koch brother and other establishment conservative funding. Anyone who thinks that there is any kind of a real populist streak in the Tea Party is delusional. It was the realization of this that caused Tea Party support to go from roughly 50% in 2010 to roughly 20% now. And 20% of the population is the the ultra-conservative Republican base. There is no populism here.

This morning, Ed Kilgore called this whole thing nonsense, Elizabeth Warren’s Real and Imaginary Appeal. But even he undersells the ideological vacuousness of the Tea Party on this issue:

Yes, many “constitutional conservatives” oppose corporate bailouts. But they also typically support eliminating not just subsidies but regulation of big banks and other corporations; oppose most if not all of the social safety net (and certainly its expansion); and also oppose legalized abortion and marriage equality, for that matter.

I go along with all that, but not the elimination of subsidies. Maybe Rand Paul is against some giveaways to the military contractors. But he is still a corporate lackey who is only really interested in taking money away from the poorer classes because they need to be encouraged by want. It’s always in the best interests of the country to give tax breaks to oil companies. Conservatives are just like liberals: they don’t mind the government doing things they agree with. The difference is that conservatives are hypocrites who claim that they want to create a smaller government. They don’t. They want a very big government — one big enough to make sure two men don’t hold hands in public and no woman ever causes herself to miscarry. There is no “right-wing populism” in this country.

This entry was posted in Politics by Frank Moraes. Bookmark the permalink.

About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “There Is No American Right-Wing Populism

  1. From the glib pundits’ mewings, you would have surmised that happy days are here again because we’ve been saved by that nice lady from Massachusetts. Hurrah for us. As for their arguments that that glorious day when the teabaggers will sit down with the dirty hippies is just a matter of time, I almost fell for it myself. But then reality hit, it was nonsense. We’re dealing with misguided neoliberal non-thinkers who so want to believe that the market will ( fill in the blanks) as long as gubmint gets out of the banks./corporations’/private equity funds’ way. And also too, they think lower taxes for all the above would be just peachy as long as the socialists keep their hippie mitts off their SS and Medicare.

    Claire Conner’s book should be required reading.

    • I’m sympathetic to left-wing populists who would like to believe that the there is some crossover with the right. And I’ll say: my conversations with conservatives always show that there is much that we agree on. But the moment the right wing media get going, it’s over. I can talk to conservatives reasonably about healthcare now, but they were irrational in 2009 and 2010. They couldn’t hear anything I said and just spouted Fox News talking points. So I do understand how populists might get tricked by this very compelling lie. But commentators should know better. Of course, we are all deserving of a little delusion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *