Category Archives: Populism

The sad thing is, someone thought it would be smart for him to say this

The even sadder thing is, the person who thought that may have been right. If, of course, your definition of “smart” is whatever wins an election, even if along the way you’re destroying America.

Unfortunately, one of the things wrong with our republic these days is that it’s full of people who think that way. Using the term “think” loosely, of course.

Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post‘s coverage on this:

A highly anticipated debate is scheduled next month in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia, and Republican nominee Hershel Walker is already trying to downplay expectations for his performance.

“I’m a country boy. I’m not that smart,” Walker told reporters Friday on a campaign stop in Savannah, Ga., according to an account from the Savannah Morning News.

Walker, a former football star, also noted that his opponent, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), is a preacher.

Warnock “is smart and wears these nice suits,” Walker said. “So, he is going to show up and embarrass me at the debate October 14th, and I’m just waiting to show up, and I will do my best.”

In a healthy representative democracy, a candidate who actually realizes he’s not as smart as his opponent bows out and lets the opponent have it — unless the opponent possesses significant character flaws. In which case you talk about the character flaws, rather than your own inadequacy. (Or you emphasize policy differences — although for a smarter person to be advocating worse policies than your own, he would have to possess the aforementioned character flaws.)

But as we all saw in 2016 and have been painfully reminded many times since, we no longer live in a healthy representative democracy.

So it is that someone in Mr. Walker’s campaign thought it would smart for him to admit he’s not smart. There’s nothing new about lowering expectations before a debate of course, but something like this lowers that old tactic to new depths.

Because in today’s sick politics, you can win by convincing people you’re the dumb guy (which, in Mr. Walker’s case, would not be difficult), and proud of it. Or the outrageously cruel guy, if you’re Ron DeSantis.

Of course, the person who devised this strategy would say Mr. Walker is just stressing his identification with Mr. Average. Hence the stuff about the opponent’s “nice suits.” Which means, of course, that the strategist openly believes Mr. Average is dumb, and likes being pandered to.

Which is something that works, a lot of the time.

I think some of y’all wonder sometimes why I have such a low opinion of populism. It’s because for our country’s entire history, it’s always had a close relationship with anti-intellectualism, in both its sincere and exploitative manifestations…

Watch out, fellow elitists! It’s a trap!


Mr. Smith accused me of being elitist today, and let’s face it: He had evidence on his side.

But something good came out of that scolding of yours truly. It reminded me of a piece I read back in October, and meant to share here, and forgot. But it occurs to me that today is the perfect day to share it and the warning it contains.

It was an oped piece in The Washington Post by Joel Stein, author of In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book.

I actually probably should buy that book, if it’s anywhere near as funny as the column. An excerpt:

Impeachment is an elitist trap

As an elitist, I enjoy a good impeachment. Especially if followed by a trial in the Senate, overseen by the chief justice in a black robe with gold stripes. In fact, I wish there were an even more complicated way to kick out a president — one with a Latin name that centered on the opinions of Ivy League historians and presented as a nine-part documentary on PBS.

Correcting the electorate’s stupid mistake via an intricate legal process created by our Enlightenment-loving founders and enacted by entrenched experts in Congress is the elites’ version of “John Wick.”

I am assuming that “John Wick” is movie about a righteous, skilled underdog battling an incompetent, corrupt power. But I have no idea if that’s true, since elites have never seen any of the “John Wick” movies…

… and so forth. That passage made me feel very smug, since I have never seen a John Wick movie, either. (Are they particularly stupid? I need you to tell me, because I wouldn’t know!)

The piece is full of good bits that tempt me to push the envelope just a mite on Fair Use. Here’s another one:

Populism is the demand for pure democracy. Its enemy is the republic, which removes the dangerous edges of democracy by protecting human rights from the majority’s will. Our founders gave us a republic. If they had wanted a direct democracy, the Constitution would be one page. Majorities don’t like republics. Majorities were sold a democratic system where they get whatever they want, right away. When they don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and turn to tyranny, which gets things done faster. Plato predicted this in “The Republic.” It’s the job of the elitist to explain this to people without mentioning Plato’s “The Republic.”…

Anyway, the serious point in all this hilarity is that the best approach to getting rid of Trump is to beat him next year at the polls, “Especially if we do it with a big enough majority so that we don’t have to explain the electoral college.”

But read the whole thing. It’s fun. And when you’re living in such depressing times — when a president is about to get the impeachment he so richly deserves, and the Senate is waiting to reject that impeachment in the most insultingly dismissive way they can think of — it’s nice if we can, even for just a moment, laugh about it…

giphy (5)

I thought Ken Burns was going to explain Trump to me…


I’m basing this on the narration from the very beginning of the first episode of his new series about country music.

You hear Peter Coyote say:

Most of all, its roots sprang from the need of Americans, especially those who felt left out and looked-down-upon, to tell their stories…

Which sounds to me like the very words used over and over to explain Trump voters.

And since I’ve never understood that phenomenon, and never fully appreciated country music, either, I was thinking this would be a doubly educational experience for me. Lessons I needed to learn.

I’ve often felt kind of bad about the fact that I’m often on the opposite side of issues from everyday, working-class, less-educated folk, and I’ve always worried about the extent to which my strong objections to the things they like is based in some sort of class snobbishness. I always conclude that no, that’s not it — I have very good reasons to reject, say, flying the Confederate flag at the State House, or video poker, or the state lottery.

Or Donald Trump. But as much as I explain my revulsion objectively and analytically, there’s also that voice in my head that keeps saying, But can’t they see how TACKY he is!?!

And that makes me feel a bit guilty.

But just a bit.

Anyway, this series isn’t over yet, and I still hope for a revelation that helps me understand both country music and populism.

I’m ever hopeful…