Populism: A Response to Elitist Political Masochism

1500 words. I promise.

Now that my obnoxious and pretentious title has grabbed your attention…

On my facebook profile, I give a reason why I am a populist, perhaps the main objective reason. It reads:

“In times such as these, the instincts of the people are based in healthy life drives and survival instincts, while those of the intellectuals are rooted in increasingly irrational spiritual disorders.”

So before I get to why I am a populist, I want to make clear up front that I am not an unconditional populist. That is why I say, “in times such as these.” By that I mean, among other things, that there are times during which I would not be a populist. I don’t hold the view that social elites are always and everywhere wrong – with the American founders, I would much like to see a “natural aristocracy” of talent (which the Church was too, by the way in the Middle Ages – where do you think all of the second and third sons of the nobility or the bright peasants who couldn’t rise by other means went?).

Read the rest here.

This might be a good discussion to have here. Comments are open.

9 Responses to Populism: A Response to Elitist Political Masochism

  • Art Deco says:

    I think you need to elaborate on certain points. Consider, what does the life and work of Dr. Peter Orszag say about our elites?

    If you have not read them already, Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims and Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed are instructive. I think you err when you refer to ‘masochism’ &c. Sowell understands the mentality as one of self-congradulation. They contrast themselves and their circle with the vernacular society and their historical predecessors.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    This is a very good start on a topic near and dear to my heart (as you can see here from the posts on my blog that are related to the topic). One thing to consider going forward is what you mean by populism. It seems to me that you’re referring more to anti-elitism. Populism in the American political context also signified a vibrant ideological movement that spurred the Progressive movement, and as such is (in my mind) a dangerous and misguided philosophy that essentially entails allowing 50 percent plus one of the population to guide the ship of state. Judging by your post I don’t think this what you are talking about when you call yourself a populist, but it might be worthy clarifying.

    This post of mine in particular talks about three different kinds of populism, and it seems like you’d fit into number three – though you might not like being lumped with Sarah Palin :) . BTW, I’m not pimping my blog, I just thought all of these would be germane to the post.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Art,

    I don’t think you understand the psychological mechanisms at work.

    There IS self-congratulation, yes. But it isn’t genuine. It is the relief they feel when they think they have made “progress” towards righting the wrong. They still feel guilty – there is never enough atonement. And they still express it with masochism. It is a social phenomenon.

    Of course as individuals they live in nice areas to shield themselves from the horrors they unleash on the lower-end of the middle and working classes, those who become populists. But they are destroying their own society, their own civilization, and it is motivated either by guilt, or, by a false assumption that they will be able to control the social revolution and race riots they want to unleash.

    Not every elitist is motivated by guilt, many are moved by delusional levels of hubris. But they work together because they want the same things.

    All I can say is, check out Pascal Bruckner.

    Paul,

    Thanks for the links, I am quite interested in reading them. Will comment soon.

  • Populism has it’s place not only in “times like these,” but always, so long as it doesn’t venture into absurdity as it so often does. I call it “unbridled populism” or “Tea Party” (half joking).

    My thoughts were on this very topic while I was watching video of the Milgram Experiment yesterday. Blind obedience to experts can be dangerous. On the other hand, experts are more often right than wrong which is why we tend to trust them in the first place.

    This is why I’d like to see a Congress that’s closer to the original purpose of bicameralism, i.e., a popular house balanced against an unelected house of elites.

  • Art Deco says:

    This is why I’d like to see a Congress that’s closer to the original purpose of bicameralism, i.e., a popular house balanced against an unelected house of elites.

    Bleh.

    They still feel guilty – there is never enough atonement.

    I think you are very much in error there (in most cases).

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Well Art,

    I base it not only on my extensive experience with radical leftists, but my knowledge of the various forms of Marxism that proliferated in the Western world throughout the 20th century among white educated elites, both lapsed Christians and Jews. I also base it upon what these people continually say and do, their publications and their policies.

    Of course I am not talking about the scientific elite – they are obsessed with hubris (Bill Gates is a megalomaniac who wants to save the world from overpopulation).

    It is the cultural and political elite that is obsessed with guilt. The two work together, the hubris and the guilt. It is the elite’s bi-polar disorder.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Paul,

    What I try to do with populism is generalize it. I think you’ve highlighted plenty of tendencies that may be properly called populist. What I look for is the thing that is common to them all. To me, populism is essentially the position that the people – the masses, if you like – should have a larger role in shaping affairs than the elites.

    I’m not a principled populist, but a pragmatic one. I think the sickness of the elites warrants a vigorous populism. This situation could change. So then would my evaluation of populism.

    That said, it doesn’t warrant a vapid populism, and that is what Sarah Palin represents. Sarah Palin is a boorish, crude, inarticulate embarrassment. She is a rank opportunist as well. She’s George W. Bush 2.0, and I don’t support her. I tried holding out to give her the benefit of the doubt but the more I listen to her the more it is like nails on a chalkboard. I think there are some rather sick psycho-sexual dynamics at play in her popular appeal as well.

    All of that being said, if she did emerge as the leader of the genuine American populist movement, I would have little choice but to support her. Her idiocy is nowhere near as disturbing to me as the spiritual and mental disorders of the ruling elite.

  • Art Deco says:

    Sarah Palin is a boorish, crude, inarticulate embarrassment….I tried holding out to give her the benefit of the doubt but the more I listen to her the more it is like nails on a chalkboard.

    Joe, nobody’s trying to fix you up with her.

    I think there are some rather sick psycho-sexual dynamics at play in her popular appeal as well.

    That is the sort of thing you should generally avoid saying about people you are not observing in the flesh.

    Were Gov. Palin a notably oleagenous figure with a mass appeal in spite of that (B. Clinton comes to mind), speculation about the sources of her mass appeal might not be altogether inappropriate. However, Gov. Palin is fairly conventional as regards her domestic situation; her daugther’s misbehaviors are regrettably banal in today’s world. As a personality, the Gov. is a ‘sporty girl’, atypical but not notably uncommon.

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