There was one post yesterday, “Reality TV Populism:”
This Washington Post article on Poland — where a right-wing, anti-intellectual, nativist party now rules, and has garnered a lot of public support — is chilling for those of us who worry that Trumpism may really be the end of the road for US democracy. The supporters of Law and Justice clearly looked a lot like Trump’s white working class enthusiasts; so are we headed down the same path?
Well, there’s an important difference — a bit of American exceptionalism, if you like. Europe’s populist parties are actually populist; they pursue policies that really do help workers, as long as those workers are the right color and ethnicity. As someone put it, they’re selling a herrenvolk welfare state. Law and Justice has raised minimum wages and reduced the retirement age; France’s National Front advocates the same things.
Trump, however, is different. He said lots of things on the campaign trail, but his personnel choices indicate that in practice he’s going to be a standard hard-line economic-right Republican. His Congressional allies are revving up to dismantle Obamacare, privatize Medicare, and raise the retirement age. His pick for Labor Secretary is a fast-food tycoon who loathes minimum wage hikes. And his pick for top economic advisor is the king of trickle-down.
So in what sense is Trump a populist? Basically, he plays one on TV — he claims to stand for the common man, disparages elites, trashes political correctness; but it’s all for show. When it comes to substance, he’s pro-elite all the way.
It’s infuriating and dismaying that he managed to get away with this in the election. But that was all big talk. What happens when reality begins to hit? Repealing Obamacare will inflict huge harm on precisely the people who were most enthusiastic Trump supporters — people who somehow believed that their benefits would be left intact. What happens when they realize their mistake?
I wish I were confident in a coming moment of truth. I’m not. Given history, what we can count on is a massive effort to spin the coming working-class devastation as somehow being the fault of liberals, and for all I know it might work. (Think of how Britain’s Tories managed to shift blame for austerity onto Labour’s mythical fiscal irresponsibility.) But there is certainly an opportunity for Democrats coming.
And the indicated political strategy is clear: make Trump and company own all the hardship they’re about to inflict. No cooperation in devising an Obamacare replacement; no votes for Medicare privatization and increasing the retirement age. No bipartisan cover for the end of the TV illusion and the coming of plain old, ugly reality.