"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trickle Up Theory–How The Liberal Establishment Will Come To Endorse Populism

It is no surprise to Trump supporters that he won.  Radical populism reflecting the resentment, frustration, and marginalization of the white middle class had been around for a long time and only needed a voice to be heard.

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They had had enough of government intrusion in personal affairs, interventionism in religious and spiritual affairs, arrogant assumptions of correctness about social norms, wasted resources on failed social programs, and a pusillanimous foreign policy long before Donald Trump spoke out against progressive arrogance, America’s retrograde slide into moral relativism, and the faux intellectualism and presumed righteousness of the media.

Anyone spending any time in the rural Midwest or Deep South would have sensed this frustrated anger years ago.  The more Black Lives Matter rose in national prominence; the more LGBT activists sought to enforce alternate sexual lifestyles; and the more progressives tired to engineer progress in education or dysfunctional communities through identity politics and self-esteem, the more middle class conservatives quietly seethed.  Too many police were being killed.  Too many children were being promoted with diversity skills only to be left behind once they left school.  Too many tax dollars were being spent on job-suffocating, idealistic environmental EPA programs.

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The 60 million or so Americans who voted for Donald Trump finally have a voice; and however much he may soften his populist stance, the genie cannot be put back in the bottle.  Neo-socialism has had its day; and regardless of Bernie Sanders’ hopeful, idealistic message of equality, wealth distribution, and a more fair, just, equitable society, few Americans are having any of it.

More and more Americans, perhaps for the first time, have understood the principles of the Founding Fathers.  Government, they said, was the handmaiden of the people, created to protect the God-given rights of individuals to practice their faith, to express their ideas, and and to realize their full economic potential. 

Jefferson understood that a Republic is only an assemblage – a collective – of individual wills.  Government can adjudicate disputes, invest in the infrastructure which necessarily underlies private enterprise, and use its military power to defend the Republic; but it should never arrogate to itself the authority of the people.

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Populism at its best is a movement to restore individualism, local authority, and community values.  There is no reason, populist conservatives say, for the Supreme Court to rule on abortion and gay marriage, when these issues are still contentious and undecided.  Every conservative understands that a privately-owned or private business has a moral identity – a core ethos which is as valid as an individual one – and that attempts to force it to conform to secular principles with which it does not agree are wrong.  Every working man who sees his paycheck co-opted by a federal government whose policies, politics, programs, and agendas conflict with his has a right to refuse.

Agreed and understood; but what about the 60 million Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton and for a continuance of progressive agendas, policies, and programs?

The demonstrations, marches, and protests sponsored by the liberal Left continue.  The Washington Mall has seen marches for women’s rights (against Trump’s misogyny and gender indifference), the climate (against Trump’s anti-science, 19th century convictions of natural evolution), and civil rights (his dismissal of  black rights in favor of police authority).

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The Left – disbelieving, shocked, and wounded – cannot believe that the country has taken such a rightward, backward, and ignorant turn.  They have for decades assumed that their agenda of multiculturalism, secularism, and identity politics was endowed.  It was not simply a platform, but a program of absolute value and unquestioned right.

Will this continue? Or will there be some seepage at least – some trickle up – of populist ideals into the Establishment?

In principle, academia prizes objectivity and reason; and more than anything appreciates the cyclical nature of history.  Nothing much has changed in seven millennia of civilization.  Wars, territorialism, internecine warfare, nationalism, empire, political hegemony have characterized human settlements since the beginning of recorded history and will continue unless and until human nature changes.  Plus Ça Change…

Yet despite this objective and correct review of history, academics are in the forefront of political activism.  The world – despite the lessons of history – is on the path of progress.  With only a concerted effort, the juggernaut of indifferent history can be stopped.  A better world is at hand.
Where is the firewall? At what point do populist ideas penetrate? Is the Left perpetually consigned to old history? When will it accept that the pendulum has swung; that progressivism is not The End of History.
In one of the most significant and ironic literary events in recent memory, Francis Fukuyama published his book, The End of History, in which he suggested that with the fall of the Soviet Union, the clash of political philosophies – capitalism and socialism – had ended.  Capitalism and liberal democracy had won.
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The American Left cheered. Not only had democracy triumphed, but the way of progressive liberalism was clear.

Not.  Not only had Fukuyama missed rising Islamic radicalism, but he had overlooked the equally important growing populist nationalism of Europe and the United States.

Although socialists, Leftists, and progressives in Europe and the United States may disagree, the tide has turned rightward.  No longer can the sentiments of the less-educated, rural, more religious, and conservative electorate be ignored.  In fact the cultural-political-social lines have already been drawn. Assumptions of the undeniability of multiculturalism, religious relativism, and the inevitable dismissal of Judeo-Christian values are being challenged.  The old, tried-and-true integrative paradigms no longer hold.

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Will the sides harden? Is there nothing but cultural war for the foreseeable future?

The swings of American history are very shallow  In only a few generations the country has seen the radical, liberal Sixties and the revolutionary populism of today.  A decisive turn towards conservative populism is overdue.

What will this entail?  Determinism – the ineluctable, predictable repetition of historical events – is not enough. While some in academia might leave partisan and emotional commitments aside and become synchronous with current events, most will not.  They will resist to the end of tenure, retirement, and old age.

Entrenched pundits of the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian among others may pick up on popular sentiment and report on some populism and eventually move away from progressive assumptions.  The drumbeat of Trump loyalists’ criticism of the media may finally resonate and force the Establishment media to withdraw their horns.

More than likely the Trump populist revolution will gradually but undeniably crack the foundations of liberal shibboleths, and academics, pundits, and Washington insiders will jump aboard.
To deny this is to deny the reality of the populist revolution; but to do so would be to deny not only America but Europe, Russia, China, the Philippines, and indeed Africa.

Populism is indeed trickling up.

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