November 28, 2020

All the Popular Kids

It is with interest to read various opinion pieces discussing how to rid the GOP of “Trumpism”. There is nothing to stir the loathing of a career politician or the ruling class’ angst like a populist. The proverbial old boys club hates an outsider. Despite their endless and meaningless platitudes about democracy, there exists, and has always existed, a mindset that some people know better than you and ought to rule.

Nothing scares the ruling class like the notion of the masses truly voting. Look at the Gracci in Ancient Rome. The Historians of the Empire certainly gave a sense they thought the Brothers were to blame or screwing up things, and certainly by the time history really came into stride with the Victorians that was the underlying theme. One could make the argument Caesar was assassinated as much for his popularity among the Plebian class as for his usurpation of power. To mix metaphors, Caesar was taking the rice bowl from the bureaucrats and They didn’t like it one bit. 

If the Never-Trumpers had any balls, they would have staged their own Ides of March . Wait, they tried with the whole Russia, Russia, Russia thing. I suppose a literal stabbing in the back was just too icky and messy.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, scared the Western World like the French Revolution. Not so much the tossing of the Bourbons, they owed money to everyone and they were never going to repay, but in that the peasants were taking charge and lopping aristocratic heads with regularity. Now that was a problem. Likewise the the Russians a hundred years ago.

Don’t feel so smug. We haven’t treated our American populists much better. Andrew JAckson has fallen a bit out of favor and the Populist of all Populists, William Jennings Bryan, is treated with more than a little condescending disdain in our own modern histories. More recently, look at how both political parties  feel about Ross Perot. 

The aristocrat-types hate a populist. The very construction of our government is by design built to limit the ability of populism to steer the course of politics. Sure, there is a wink and a nod to letting the People have their say, but the passions that elect the House are limited by the two year term juxtaposed by the six year term of the supposedly more deliberative nature of the Senate. That’s why originally Senators were elected by the States, not the general populace and why the President is chosen through the electoral college, not the popular vote. 

If you want Exhibit A on why populism is a bad idea, look at what has happened to Federalism since the Seventeenth Amendment was passed . One of the first acts of a wholly popular-elected Senate was to outlaw alcohol. Cripes.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Trump era in history. I say that metaphorically, since sober history won’t be written until long after I’m dead. Of course history is written by the victors, and the aristocracy hates Trump with a burning passion, so I suspect Orange Man Bad will be vilified like most populists in history.


Cappy said...

Wouldn't it be easier for them to shoot everyone they feel is icky?

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I would argue that most of the soi-disant populists in our history have been bugnuts crazy. I would not have wanted William Jennings Bryan for president. Perot was a mistake I made once and repented of the second time.

Andrew Jackson, for all the Jacksonians venerate his foreign/military policy, was a pretty foul creature.

Trump is a different kind of populist, if indeed he can even be lumped in with the rest. As I've said a gazillion times since 2016, he's not a politician, and that right there makes him stand out.

Joe said...

It is his outsider status that makes the Swamp Creatures hate him so much

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