Right Wing "Populsim" - Dangerous?

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QUOTE: "If you look at the unemployment figures, which are always understated, in manufacturing industry its back to the Great Depression. And people are not going to get those jobs back. So they have the right to be mad, but the left is not offering them anything.” (Jon Hochschartner, “I Don’t See Much Difference: An Interview With Noam Chomsky,” Z Magazine, April 2010)."

"Chomsky advanced more elaborate and grave reflections to a leftist interviewer last fall: right now …there is a right-wing populist uprising. It's very common, even on the left, to just ridicule them, but that's not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances…And in fact they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened,…,so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Well Rush Limbaugh has answered - it's the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government, and of course run the media, and they don't care about you.’ Either they just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.”

”… the reaction we should be having to them is not ridicule, but rather self-criticism. Why aren't we organizing them? I mean, we are the ones that ought to be organizing them, not Rush Limbaugh. There are historical analogs, which are not exact, of course, but are close enough to be worrisome. This is a whiff of early Nazi Germany. Hitler was appealing to groups with similar grievances, and giving them crazy answers, but at least they were answers; these groups weren't getting them anywhere else…”

“…the liberal Democrats aren't going to tell the average American, ‘Yeah, you're being shafted because of the policies that we've established over the years that we're maintaining now.’ That's not going to be an answer. And they're not getting answers from the left. So, there's an internal coherence and logic to what they get from Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of these guys. And they sound very convincing, they're very self-confident, and they have an answer to everything. It’s a crazy answer, but it's an answer. And it's our fault if that goes on. So one thing to be done is don't ridicule these people, join them, and talk about their real grievances and give them a sensible answer, like, ‘Take over your [outsourced] factories.’”

"Chomsky’s sentiments were echoed in a recent CounterPunch essay by the left singer and songwriter David Rovics. Referring to the Tea Party and talk radio crowd, Rovics argued that “These are people who are often working two shit jobs to make ends meet whereas a generation ago one would have done just fine. They very legitimately feel disenfranchised. These are people with very legitimate complaints, and dismissing them as racists or whatever other label people on the left want to put on them is simplistic.” Raising the specter of “a real fascist movement in this country,” Rovics warns that the future will be bleak, and ugly, and filled with ‘patriots’….if the so-called progressives of this country can't snap out of their Obama-induced slumber, take to the streets and vocally break ranks with both corrupt parties that are driving this country into the ground…”


Perhaps breaking ranks is a strong term. Realistically, we still have only two parties to work with. One of them has to be captured. That means getting directly involved.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm


Obviously the populism itself isn't dangerous, but the character of our national cupidity and the ideology of an implanted "free market" avarice driving it more likely is.

Chomsky says the "left" should be leading these movements but it doesn't have answers. Not true. I value Chomsky's underlying theories about Empire, and how much trouble he's gone through to share how he sees them working themselves out. But he doesn't cover many of my own biggest concerns, and I have much better sources for them than I would ever hope him to be.

Chomsky's never been much of an environmentalist, for instance. I don't think he sees any real political relationship between our environmentalists' concerns and his. If he does, I've missed it. Yet my own environmentalist beginnings are rooted in conservation interests before there was an environmentalist movement, and those are also connected to a grass roots populism going way back.

This is a whiff of early Nazi Germany. Hitler was appealing to groups with similar grievances, and giving them crazy answers, but at least they were answers; these groups weren't getting them anywhere else…”

That may be true, but the answers are only crazy because there has been no sensible national dialog to contradict the free market propaganda that the poster boy for it all represented when he took over the Presidency in the 1980s. I find it nearly impossible to connect the discussion about the left version of populism I saw in Bill Moyers' last Journal to the rhetoric I'm reading about the most outspoken of the Tea Partiers. The "squeaky wheels" that get the media grease. The closest would have been the Ron Paul influenced chapter, like many I know locally, and it appears from the media frenzy about it they are fading in the incandescent insanity of the Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh style jingoism.

My own roots are similar to those I saw in Moyers' first story about the Iowa citizens. In it we hear many who think themselves as conservatives and farmers. Not industrial farmers but family farmers. The ancient roots that precede the industrial revolution. It doesn't really need a label, conservative, liberal, or whatever.

But they are conservatives like my own farm family heritage is, like David Korten's small town conservatism is, and my relatives are still conservatives and connected through farming traditions that go back before 1776. Like many of them, my own father had nature books he loved, Rhodale's organic farming magazines he used for practice ideas on our farm, and together we read Rachael Carson's Silent Spring when it came out. This is not Chomsky's own roots and heritage, if you read him, and I know about things, as a result, he has never experienced. So his general ideas about populism must be put in perspective.

I don't know how many in the Tea Party movement are that far in their thinking from that Iowa based populism he showed us. I think the hopeful news is the U.S. is not as culturally similar in make-up as some might think to a small, culturally homogenous nation like Germany was in the Thirties. That must be kept in mind.

.ren's picture
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

I find it beautifully ironic...that the hope for true change away from what passes as "conservatism"....sometimes even liberalism.....is from conservatives... like those in Iowa. Just ordinary folk who want their country and their government back. Who want social justice and fair play vs. neo-liberal/neo-conservative injustice and institutionalized corruption.

Anyone who missed Bill Moyer's final program....missed something!

The transcript: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04302010/transcript5.html

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

yes the democrats piss me off because polls showed that most didnt want this form of health reform that passed

cap and trade law is worse i think

the people feel unrepresented and will elect any loon now and dems will just get voted out

thanks for nothing democrats and for giving us the far right jerks who will react worse

what did peolisi /obama accomplish ? nothing!!

FoxMulder's picture
Apr. 22, 2010 11:15 am

GOP Tax Myth & Junk Economics

If there's one thing all Republican politicians are really good at, it's straight-up lying through their teeth about how their tax cuts for the rich are actually tax cuts for the middle-class.

Reagan did it, George W. Bush did it, and now that he's officially unveiled his own so-called tax reform plan, Donald Trump is doing it, too.

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