Re: Going, going...

1

I just saw this and spat out my coffee.

The amazing part is that no one else here on Wall Street seems to care.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:01 AM
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Also, why did they release this today and not this Friday afternoon, before a long three-day weekend?


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:03 AM
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Makes me think something was coming down the pipes today. I hope they pursue him for perjury, even out of office. Quitting seems to be some kind of self-castigatory move that erases all past crimes, or something.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:13 AM
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Makes me think something was coming down the pipes today.

Alberto Gonzales was dog-fighting with Michael Vick?


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:15 AM
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It just always seems very suspicious to me when there are cries for someone's resignation, and then they stick around just long enough that everyone assumes they're staying put, and the grumbling grows more general, and starts to die down, and then they quit. If he wanted any residual goodwill at all, he should have left ages ago.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:20 AM
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I agree w/4, they're looking for cover from the Vick story.


Posted by: Ugh | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:25 AM
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I think that a ghoulish Owen Wilson thread would be more fun.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:26 AM
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7: Don't be mean, John. Suicide is not terribly funny for a lot of people here.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:27 AM
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7: You suck, Emerson. Suicide isn't funny, and Owen Wilson co-wrote Rushmore, Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums.

I assume Bush will appoint as Gonzales's replacement Karl Rove.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:32 AM
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Suicide isn't funny

What about *attempted suicide*? -- Okay, "attempted suicide by Owen Wilson"? Is that funny?

Shouldn't be offensive to anyone here who isn't (1) Owen Wilson or (2) emotionally intimate with Owen Wilson. And Ogged is gone, so we're safe on (2).


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:39 AM
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Maybe Bush will replace Gonzales with Owen Wilson, and then the Senate Dems will be REALLY, REALLY hesitant to be too tough on him during the confirmation hearings -- like, "how does being kind of funny in that Kate Hudson movie qualify you to be Attorney General?" -- because, you know, there might be consequences, and who wants that on their hands, really? Just think of the GOP ads in 2008: "Why Did the Democrats Kill Owen Wilson?"


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:41 AM
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10: I wouldn't like anyone laughing at my suicide attempts, so I'd rather not laugh at anyone else's.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:41 AM
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Also, what's to make fun of? Wilson seems to be basically a good guy, and there aren't any surrounding circumstances I'm aware of that are particularly risible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:44 AM
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12: Hopefully, OW will laugh at his own suicide attempt, since laughing at it is a big step towards not repeating it. So I'm not laughing at him, I'm laughing *with* him, albeit prospectively.

I had missed his breakup with Kate back in June. All the reason in the world, man.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:45 AM
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OK, I take it back. The funny part was the Steely Dan poison pen letter to Wilson, which I imagine they will apologize for.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:46 AM
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13: Right. When it's Carrot Top's attempted suicide, maybe we can go into negotiations. But Owen Wilson's attempted suicide is not funny.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:47 AM
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You suck, Emerson. Suicide isn't funny, and Owen Wilson co-wrote Rushmore, Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Owen Wilson's suicide attempt isn't funny. Increasingly, I think Luke's would be.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:47 AM
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What if it's a comedy suicide attempt, like hanging yourself with a slinky or leaving the clown car running?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:55 AM
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Mostly because Luke Wilson's suicide would probably be mis-reported as Owen's.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:56 AM
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I was certainly not aware that Owen Wilson is a good guy. I don't watch movies any more.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:57 AM
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Wristslitting = not funny. Believe me; I've tried it in all kinds of potentially comic situations, and it just brings everybody down.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:57 AM
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Or putting your head in the Easy-Bake oven?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:59 AM
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Michael Chertoff would certainly be a hilarious and inspired choice to replace Gonzales, if only for the weeks of Katrina response rehash we'd get during his nomination hearings.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:07 AM
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Hey, AWB, Tyler Cowen is holding forth on Tristram Shandy. You might need to go set him straight.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:08 AM
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23: The 2d anniversary of Katrina, no less. Maybe they could nominate Chertoff on the 2d anniversary of his saying "what is this 'Convention Center' of which you speak?" Just for laughs!


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:09 AM
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What about *attempted suicide*?

Well, it shouldn't be funny, but. When I was dating The Crazy Blonde, she got a call from the hospital because a (not at all close) acquaintance had been hospitalized following a suicide attempt and listed TCB as the person to contact rather than a family member. How had she tried to off herself? By eating a tube of toothpaste.

Nothing funny about suicidal thoughts, except when they're minty fresh.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:09 AM
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You know who could do a funny suicide attempt? Will Farrell. He cracks me up.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:12 AM
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The only appropriate response to Emerson is to ask him to derelicte my ballz.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:17 AM
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How had she tried to off herself? By eating a tube of toothpaste.

Beautiful. Surely she barfed it up. I get queasy if I swallow too much when brushing.

Really, you've got to feel for the plight of the cry-for-help suicide attempter. Do something *too* plausible, and you might actually, um, DIE, which would defeat the entire fucking purpose. OTOH, do something so lame that it's not plausibly fatal, and then people on Unfogged threads are laughing at you.

Leaving aside that, almost by definition, you're not particularly in your right mind while you're trying to strike the happy medium here. (I think otherwise sane people can commit suicide, sure, but if you're doing the cry-for-help bit, then you are presumably a bit far gone, since a non-acutely-distressed person would find some other way to send a message.)

Oh -- I'm so out of it on Wilsoniana, I hadn't even seen that Steely Dan letter. Thanks, Emerson. What a hoot.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:17 AM
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"He is known for his comedies but it looks like actor Owen Wilson [Images] was feeling far from funny when he landed in hospital after a suicide bid on Sunday"

Random entertainment news website says: not funny.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:18 AM
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But back to Gonzales-- remember when people were saying that Bush wouldn't can him because (a) the Senate wouldn't confirm a lackey in the current political climate and (b) no one but a lackey would cover Bush's back w/r/t all the dodgy legal stuff going on over the past few years? This seemed plausible at the time and I wonder how the confirmation will play out given that being nominated will seem to many Senators like an indication that the candidate is unfit to serve.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:20 AM
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Okay, this thread is seriously pissing me off now.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:21 AM
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It's easy, Labs: Senators have no spines. Also, Chertoff is scary. Fear will keep them in line.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:22 AM
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I assume Bush will appoint as Gonzales's replacement Karl Rove.

No, no, no. Obviously it's going to be John Yoo. Because that'll learn 'em.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:22 AM
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I still want to start a noise-metal band called John Yoo Testicle.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:24 AM
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Okay, this thread is seriously pissing me off now.

So unlike Stras, too...


Posted by: sam k | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:25 AM
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Now that Bush has concluded his successful experiment to see if the Senate will ever, under any circumstances, impeach or punish anyone even if they are obviously unfit for their office AND they act more contemptuously and inappropriately than anyone in history ever has in front of Congress, Gonzales is free to go.

It's now clear that all the criminals in the administration will receive impunity, except maybe being indicted by foreigners Kissinger-style. But even that would only apply to the war criminals, not the financial criminals or those who violate patronage laws.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:27 AM
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President Bush is expected to make a statement about Gonzales at 11:50 a.m. from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he has been vacationing.

"I personally believe, the reason the Attorney General had to resign was because, Americans have no signs, and to build up our future for, everywhere like such as the Iraq, and South Africa, and the Asian countries..."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:28 AM
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Maybe not Chertoff—who's been confirmed before, iirc—Paul Clement, now Solicitor General, says TPM.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:28 AM
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So unlike Stras, too...

There are way more assholes to get pissed at in this thread than I ever run into in real life.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:28 AM
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"Assholes" s/b "starfish"


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:30 AM
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38: Great one, Slack.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:31 AM
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No, no, no. Obviously it's going to be John Yoo.

I think this was my high-larious thought last time around, also.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:31 AM
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A Chertoff nomination might signal a hat tip towards Guiliani by the b/c conspiracy.


Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:33 AM
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Harriet Miers perhaps?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:33 AM
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31: Yeah, that's the Catch-22 -- anyone confirmable should be out of consideration, & vice-versa.

Except that assumes that the Democrats will do their job. So I think Bush is probably okay, as usual.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:35 AM
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Oh, gotta pass this along from Joseph Slater at a Volokh thread:

Does Gonzales remember the reason he resigned? Or did he not attend the meetings where his resignation was discussed?


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:36 AM
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Does Bernie Kerik have a law degree?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:51 AM
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39: No way. Clement will be the Acting AG, but I don't believe he'd ever get talked into taking the job permanently. Solicitor General is one of the best jobs around, and he'd be crazy to leave.

My money's on Chertoff, which would set up a bruising confirmation battle. Orrin Hatch, on the other hand, would be a guaranteed confirmation. But then the GOP wouldn't be able to run against an obstructionist Democratic Congress. It'll be Chertoff.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:57 AM
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Philip Perry.

Dick will shoot anyone who objects.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:59 AM
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Clement is an interesting choice. Very smart. Very smooth. I am not sure that his loss in the SG's office for this term is worth the benefit of him as AG.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:07 AM
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Lawyer-types, what does the Solicitor General actually do besides argue the federal government's case in the Supreme Court?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:19 AM
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that assumes that the Democrats will do their job

Which they've shown approximately no ability to do. Get ready for AG Robert Bork.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:22 AM
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52: IANAL, but I believe he's also responsible for "soliciting" for the Prez, IYKWIM. Or providing said service himself.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:22 AM
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54: Procurer General? Panderer General?

53: Bork will not get past Bush's screening process that weeds out the physically unfit.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:23 AM
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My money would be on John Mitchell, but Science hasn't yet perfected the zombification method.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:23 AM
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Rudy Giuliani!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:24 AM
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52: He also decides whether the gov't should appeal any case in which it is on the losing end.


Posted by: Ugh | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:25 AM
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The only question I have is whether the Dems have the nuts/Os to demand documents in return for moving the confirmation process forward. There are going to be a lot of editorials saying that the President should, absent disqualifying information, get his AG. Broadly speaking, that's probably even true.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:27 AM
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Broadly speaking, that's probably even true.

I disagree heartily. The Senate confirmation process was created for a good reason, like a president who has an unblemished record of nominating the worst possible person for any given position.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:30 AM
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Bernanke's not so bad. I imagine he tortures children in his spare time to meet his evil quota, but as a public official he's been decent so far.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:33 AM
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56: These historical comparisons are becoming as difficult in politics as they are in sports. Would zombie John Mitchell have sufficiently low ethical standards to work in this administration?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:33 AM
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The Senate confirmation process was created for a good reason, like a president who has an unblemished record of nominating the worst possible person for any given position.

Absolutely. By this point, Bush's appointees should face a heavy presumption against confirmation.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:40 AM
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I don't disagree with the second sentence much. I mean to endorse the more general position about a generic President.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:44 AM
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I just - thirty seconds ago! - overheard two co-workers agreeing that Gonzales should go because he "let those motherfuckers push him around" and express that "it's nobody's business who gets fired or why" and that "people worry too much." Apparently Gonzales wasn't stalwart enough for them.

I am struck speechless.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:46 AM
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Ned, what I meant was not a Guiliani nomination for AG, but a hat tip towards his candidacy as Pres. Kerik and Chertoff were close associates of Guiliani, and both were nominated for the HLS position. A Chertoff nomination for AG might signal support for Guiliani's pres. ambitions. Call it a mutual exchange of cronyism. Furthermore, it is rumored that Rove is consulting on behalf of Rudely.


Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:46 AM
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The prosecutor purge was the first step in preparing for the zombie AG, removing anybody with a temptingly succulent brain in order to keep the AG from attacking the staff. And they'd have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling journalists.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:47 AM
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Senator: Mr. Mitchell would you please indicate how you would carry forward the investigation into the firings of the US Attorneys?

Mitchell: Braaaiiins, Braaaaiiins.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:47 AM
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Anybody else notice how Nick Lemann fleshed out the hatred-of-liberals/elite aspect of what's called conservatism, in his potrait of Rove in The New Yorker's Talk of the Town?

I've never seen it put so succinctly before: Those flippant, much-quoted remarks about McKinley derive from the belief that America went wrong, has not been itself, since the Progressive Era, the time when managerial and professional elites began to exercise real authority in American public life, and to override and limit what electoral politics could do. All conservative tides over the past hundred years or so have not challenged the Progressive Era like this, focusing on later developments or replacing particular actors or agencies.

We, here, belong by training and disposition to that mandarin class that is the object of this attack, and that is the unifying hate of the recent conservative tide. But you need not be a right winger to feel some of this animosity to rule by (predominantly) liberal elites. Some on the left, not members of political movements but significant voices nonetheless, have voiced similar feelings: The late Christopher Lasch, Wendell Berry, and even Barbara Ehrenreich come immediately to mind.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:52 AM
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69: I love me some Barbara Ehrenreich.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:55 AM
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I've recently been thinking about the issues in 69. Democrats seem increasingly to represent people with certain kinds of education and credential, especially liberal arts types in the media, professions, and government; plus a lot of union labor; plus minorities. People in business, especially self-employed, people with more technical educations, and a lot of individual workers go Republican. It's portrayed as a class divide, but there are a lot of middle class people on boths sides, while even the white poor still tend Democrat. The real split seems to be between two different kinds of well-off or fairly well-off people, with the Republican well-off pretending to be "the common people".

The strong institutional and professional identifications of most liberals put me off, since I'm non- and sometimes anti- institutional / professional. There's also something very fishy about liberal attacks on the stupidity of Republicans, since a lot of Republicans are pretty well educated, and most less-educated people vote Democratic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:05 AM
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Or putting your head in the Easy-Bake oven?

Definitely not funny. Populuxe is banned.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:05 AM
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Take a gander at what some of the folks at NRO think would be good replacements.

I was going to suggest that Ed Meese might be of low enough character and is less dead than John Mitchell, but Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation beat me too it. Roger Clegg pens a mash note to Ted freaking Olson

He is (a) a conservative and (b) of impeccable character. He has a lot of experience in standing up to Congress, but also has a great appreciation for Justice Department as an institution and the special demands on it to be above suspicion when it comes to small-p politics.

... yes I'm sure Ted has great appreciation.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:06 AM
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It's portrayed as a class divide, but there are a lot of middle class people on boths sides, while even the white poor still tend Democrat. The real split seems to be between two different kinds of well-off or fairly well-off people, with the Republican well-off pretending to be "the common people".

I think John Edwards' characterization of the difference, while self-serving, works at the middle class or higher level: "the party of wealth versus the party of work". I expect salaried people to be Democrats, and people who live by managing their property to be Republicans. That's not a straight 'who's better off' comparison -- someone with a high salary is often going to be 'better off', even if less wealthy in terms of the value of the assets they own, than someone who owns a small business.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:18 AM
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This all just reminds me that a perfectly wonderful Texan Gonzales was a big player in Congress for a long time: Henry Gonzalez.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:21 AM
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At this point, I would be overjoyed if they brought back John Ashcroft. He at least seemed to entertain the possibility of some type of relationship between the law and what he did.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:36 AM
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There's also something very fishy about liberal attacks on the stupidity of Republicans, since a lot of Republicans are pretty well educated, and most less-educated people vote Democratic.

There's something pretty fishy about someone who claims to be anti-institutional who can't see how that would work.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:36 AM
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Explain, Tim.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:39 AM
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Speaking of Guiliani, the Vanity Fair piece doesnt do a lot to make Judith Guiliani look good. Or Rudy for marrying her.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:50 AM
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78: It's possible to be well-educated and still pretty stupid. I've even heard tell of a Crazy "Old" Man who is--by institutional lights--not particularly well-educated, and yet manages to appear pretty smart.

As for the second half, it's hardly a new idea that you can have a relatively small elite group that, in most instances, outweighs the much larger non-elite group as regards policy.

And I think you're understating the damage Republicans have done to their brand among technocrats.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:53 AM
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76: At this point, I would be overjoyed if they brought back John Ashcroft.

The soft bigotry of low expectations strikes again. This is how the fuckers win, of course. They drag the national conversation so far to the extremes that John Ashcroft is accurately perceived as a relative moderate.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:02 AM
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We all know that Luke Wilson's character in The Royal Tenenbaums tried to commit suicide in much the same way as Owen just did in real life, right?


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:06 AM
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"It's possible to be well-educated and still pretty stupid."

That stretches the word too far. I've known wrong-headed well-educated people with poor judgment, no curiosity, closed minds, etc., etc., but I wouldn't call them stupid. Different problem. I've also known genuinely stupid people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:08 AM
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By the way, it should go without saying, but Owen Wilson is awesome and I hope he gets help. I think my favorite performance of his was in Meet the Parents, but there are so many to choose from.

"You're Jewish? Great! So was J.C.!"


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:08 AM
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I've known wrong-headed well-educated people with poor judgment, no curiosity, closed minds, etc., etc., but I wouldn't call them stupid.

Enlarge your circle of acquaintances.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:16 AM
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I think that some of the political tone-deafness of Democrats comes from their cpmmittments to credentialization and institutions. When the Republicans talk about elitist liberals who claim to speak for people they actually wouldn't want to know, they're scoring cheap shots because they're totally elitist themselves, but Democrats give them plenty to work with. The complete cynicism of the Republicans makes them more effective, since they're not trying to fool themselves.

In short, Republican populism is fake, but Democratic elitism is real.

The New Deal and, to an extent, Kennedy were both populist and elitist, but I think that the Democrats have lost that or thrown it away. Many Democrats make anti-populism almost their first principle.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:16 AM
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Tim, "stupid" has a specific meaning. It's not just a smear word. There are no stupid engineers. Period.

I'm confident that my circle of acquaintances is larger and more diverse than yours.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:18 AM
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We all know that Luke Wilson's character in The Royal Tenenbaums tried to commit suicide in much the same way as Owen just did in real life, right?

Yes.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:18 AM
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81: My favorite example of this is the speculation that Rove was resigning out of protest w/r/t Iran -- making me momentarily think of Rove himself, the very embodiment of nihilistic Republican partisanship, as a relative moderate.

The nice thing about nihilists, though, is that you can at least negotiate with them on some level.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:19 AM
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Many Democrats make anti-populism almost their first principle.

I wouldn't say it's my first principle. It might not be in the top ten. But it's up there, for what I think are pretty good reasons.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:19 AM
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86: I've certainly seen enough people complain about it to believe you, but I still don't know what to point to as characterizing Democratic elitism. Democratic politicians are mostly highly educated and credentialled, sure, but so are most Republican politicians, right? And to the extent there's a difference, we're talking good law school versus bad law school, not graduate degree versus high school diploma.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:20 AM
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There are no stupid engineers. Period.

Not quite "period," right? You also need, "All PhD's are engineers."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:22 AM
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90: Populism is fascist. People are inherently unable to understand why neoliberalism is what's best for them, so ultimately, imposing it on them is more democratic.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:22 AM
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I'm confident that my circle of acquaintances is larger and more diverse than yours.

Now you're just being hurtful.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:24 AM
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93:

Populism on African-Americans: Lynch 'em.
Populism on Hispanics: Deport 'em.
Populism on Gays: Beat 'em.

Which one of the above most spoke to you, Kotsko?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:26 AM
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And to the extent there's a difference, we're talking good law school versus bad law school...

Smile at that some, John?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:27 AM
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I may not have said that the right way. What I meant is (and I'm not even sure this is true) maybe you could say that Republicans are less elitist on the credentials front because they'll nominate Harriet Miers, with an SMU law degree, to the SC, and the Democrats would be likelier to stick with the Ivies. But that's a pretty picayune difference (SMU's perfectly respectable), and I'm not even sure it plays out across the board.

I'm not arguing that credentials aren't overvalued, I just don't see a party difference on this point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:31 AM
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95: Ever heard of "economic populism"? Given that I mentioned neoliberalism, maybe you could've somehow divined that that was what I was talking about.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:31 AM
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One of the things is that Democratic politicians talk in a detached, above-the-battle way, like administrators trying to keep a lid on things and make things run smoothly. Dukakis and Kerry were especially bad. Gore too, and probably Mondale. Clinton didn't.

Democrats have been keeping "the core" at arms length for a couple of decades, while begging money from corporations to hire mercenaries and temps.

I don't think that it's merely the kind of thing that a speech coach or speechwriter could fix; it's real, they do think that way and disdain to speak more effectively.

Don't get the "All PhDs are engineers point".

I've never read Hostaders populism book or books, but I think he got it wrong. The state of Minnesota was transformed in a positive way by populists. In 1948 Humphrey was on the left of the Democratic party, but in Minnesota he was a centrist. Without the populist oomph I don't think that the left can ever do much. (As far as I know, Zizek doesn't disagree; "doing soething" isn't part of his program, is it?)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:32 AM
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Zizek's only in favor of doing "something" if that "something" is the dialectical negation of negation of doing "nothing."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:34 AM
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Karl Rove had one year of college. Democrats are still saying that he was stupid, but he had a tremendous run of success. He whipped the Democratic PhDs repeatedly.

According to their lights, Bush and Rove accomplished everything they possibly could have. Their strategy was to keep gambling until they finally lost, and it worked up until very recently. Democrats are acting like they've finally won, but the performance of Congress so far doesn't give any evidence for that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:36 AM
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Tim, your understanding of populism is STUPID!!1!!

Also an ignorant cliche.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:37 AM
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Don't get the "All PhDs are engineers point".

The idea is that there are stupid PhD's., they're just the ones with PhDs in something other than engineering. I don't agree -- you need to be reasonably clever to slog through a PhD in anything -- but that's what he meant.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:37 AM
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John, have you read Lasch's last books, The True and Only Heaven and Revolt of the Elites?

Very good on recovering Populism.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:37 AM
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Stupidity ≠ Ignorance


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:38 AM
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You can be reasonably clever and a complete fool, and there's also what's sometimes called "educated incapacity."


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:41 AM
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Ever heard of "economic populism"? Given that I mentioned neoliberalism, maybe you could've somehow divined that that was what I was talking about.

You mean like Tom Watson and George Wallace? I look forward to your New World Order, Kotsko.

Don't get the "All PhDs are engineers point".

Doesn't matter; at this point, I'm mostly fucking with you. I think the "stupid" point is over- or mis-emphasized, too. While I have a strong preference for technocratic solutions, I don't believe that "smart enough for a PhD" means that you will necessarily grind out the same policy solutions as other "smart enough for a PhD" people. (Or even, on many issues, that you're appreciably more likely to be "right" than people who aren't "smart enough for a PhD.")

It may, OTOH, mean that you are more comfortable with people who are "smart enough for a PhD" and therefore at least mildly inclined toward technocratic solutions; I think that represents an opportunity for Dems. Precisely how important that is, I do not know.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:44 AM
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Tim, you ignorant fuck, I meant Floyd B Olson in Minnesota. If you don't know who he was, shut up for six months and educate yourself. Your entire understand of ppulism comes from tendentious smears.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:47 AM
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87: There are no stupid engineers.

Just engineers who do stupid things.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:50 AM
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I think that the role of intelligence in politics is dramatically overstated, particularly by people who conceive of themselves as the intellectual elite. I know tons of people who are quite smart in lots of ways, but just don't apply their intelligence to the political process, and believe amazingly dumb things.

Also, dammit, I find myself agreeing with Emerson (w/r/t his analysis of Republican "populism" vs. Democratic elitism, and the success of Rove) again. Could you say something risible about economic matters, John?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:53 AM
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A thing I'm impressed by is the degree to which Democrats' gains among professionals (and quasi-professionals such as myself who don't belong to your crazy lawyerly guild system) has been spun by professional bullshit-shovelers like David Brooks as "the Dems are the new party of the rich". Evidence showing that wealth corresponds directly to propensity to vote for Republicans be damned! I guess it's the best way for the GOP to keep stoking the fires of class warfare on the part of white small-business owners (who are incredibly likely to be Republicans, IIRC) and blue-collar Reagan Republicans, I guess; nobody comes into contact with Richard Mellon Scaife on a day-to-day basis, but everyone wants to stick it to a smug young dot-com-er.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:53 AM
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There are no dumb PhDs. "Dumb" means, approximately, "IQ below 100". Or wherever the median is these days (have they renormed it)-- maybe "below 110".

I have seen elite Democrats (on DeLong, but even elsewhere on more purely political sites) claim that stupid lazy voters are the problem, and say "I wish that people like that just wouldn't vote". But the higher the turnout is, including stupid voters, the better Democrats do. These people were elitist Democrats venting their elitism, but completely misunderstanding what's actually going on.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:01 PM
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107: Tim, I assure you, you'll be the first to be sent to the Gulag. Emerson will be the one administering it, since he already lives in the best place to put a Gulag.

Because that's what populism leads to: totalitarianism. It's important for politicians to screw over everyone repeatedly in the name of capitalist profits, then pose as champions of the middle class. Otherwise, we might wind up with another Holocaust.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:01 PM
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111: Well, the average mainstream media journalist is both A) an elitist and B) a Democrat. It's hard for them to not extrapolate from that.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:03 PM
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Populism on African-Americans: Lynch 'em.
Populism on Hispanics: Deport 'em.
Populism on Gays: Beat 'em.

This seems more than a bit over-simple. One might with just as much justice say: Populism on slaves: Free 'em.

I think, Tim, you suffer from an a priori assumption that anything populist is, by definition, stupid.

To lift (and perhaps misapply) an Emerson observation that struck me from awhile ago: It's not populism that let us down this time. The people want to impeach the fuckers. (And the people were pretty appalled by the Clinton impeachment.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:05 PM
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The nice thing about nihilists, though, is that you can at least negotiate with them on some level.

Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:07 PM
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Of course there are stupid Ph.Ds! Surely there are enough academics on this site who can attest to the existence of downright cretinous morons who somehow managed to get a Ph.D and become chair of their department/hiring committee/whatever.

At best a Ph.D proves your ability in one area, but intelligence is not a single thing. To pick the obvious example: Engineers are not known for their social intelligence.

Larry Summers has a Ph.D, and he says some things that are so mind bogglingly dull I can't believe he can tie his own shoes.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:10 PM
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Larry Summers says things so cretinous that only a genuinely smart man could say them.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:14 PM
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Really, there are genuinely stupid people in the world. Stupid is just the wrong word. And the way people use it, they miss the point that Karl Rove is smarter than they are. Stupidity is not the Republican problem.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:15 PM
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Which is more depressing: the idea that we are governed by stupid authoritarians, or smart ones?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:20 PM
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My conclusion, after teaching Gould's The Mismeasure of Man several times, is that the words "stupidity" and "intelligence" could be removed from the vocabulary with little loss in flexibility, and tremendous gains in accuracy. Rove is a cleaver operator; he has a classic kind of social intelligence. Nevertheless, there is something he is clearly ignorant of. (Can I call it the form of the Good? Moral intelligence?)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:21 PM
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Rove is a cleaver operator

A felicitous typo.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:21 PM
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Yeah, but the Democrats' PhD technocrats are pretty blind too, and he whipped them at their own game.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:22 PM
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Lots of diligent work, and the social skills to make your professors like you, can take you very far in academia. But while I think everyone would agree that a PhD is no guarantee of brilliance, or even "more than one standard deviation above the mean" intelligence, you do have to be able to, at the very minimum, read a lot of books, understand the facts contained in those books at least well enough to sort of minimally seperate them into discrete ideas, and then regurgitate those facts in a somewhat novel form. That does put a certain floor on the intelligence of someone who gets a PhD.

And, again, there really are a lot of very smart people who believe astonishingly dumb things.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:24 PM
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Nevertheless, there is something he is clearly ignorant of. (Can I call it the form of the Good? Moral intelligence?)

He has those things, but his differ from ours.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:25 PM
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Technocrats don't know anything about the Form of the Good either.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:29 PM
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But while I think everyone would agree that a PhD is no guarantee of brilliance, or even "more than one standard deviation above the mean" intelligence, you do have to be able to, at the very minimum, read a lot of books, understand the facts contained in those books at least well enough to sort of minimally seperate them into discrete ideas, and then regurgitate those facts in a somewhat novel form. That does put a certain floor on the intelligence of someone who gets a PhD.

I'm not going to have to do that to get my PhD. I have to plan a bunch of experiments and then carry them out, and then interpret the results to show something that hasn't been done before.

I do have to read a bunch of 6- to 15-page journal articles in order to know what has been done already and what the accepted facts are.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:31 PM
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"please help a stupid engineer"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:31 PM
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Ned: I was thinking mostly of humanities PhD's, because I have the impression that that's where a lot of people think that "dumb PhD's" are located. But, still, with a science PhD, you've got to learn a lot of facts, and create a certain semblence of novelty in terms of rearranging those facts (minimum! This is the person who pobably shouldn't be getting the PhD. I'm sure you're doing much more.)


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:34 PM
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I think, Tim, you suffer from an a priori assumption that anything populist is, by definition, stupid.

No, I assume, on the basis of past examples, that there is a risk that populism will take a pretty virulent form. Which is why I said "I have decent reasons," rather than "populism is, in all cases, wrong." The extent to which someone worries about majoritarian tyranny, for whatever reason, is probably going to go a fair distance towards predicting discomfort with populism. I admit that my reasons might be crazy and paranoid: it's not like the country voted for torture and against fair hearings for citizen in '04.

But, sure, if we're talking about magic populism, with all the risk ripped out and all the infrastructure imported from the Great Idealism Store, as Emerson and Kotsko apparently are--hey, I'm on board. Who wouldn't be?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:38 PM
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Is it all that surprising that intelligence and educational achievement do not correlate perfectly, and that even if they did, being highly intelligent doesn't say much about one's principles or morals?

The Republicans seem just as committed to institutions and credentials. The Decider was born with a silver spoon up his ass. The party line, though, is that they all pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and are down with the gente (except they'll say 'real American' because 'gente' is foreign) and anyone could do what they did if they just worked hard. It's just rhetoric. It's just selling a dream.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:42 PM
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And the way people use it, they miss the point that Karl Rove is smarter than they are.

Has anyone, anywhere ever claimed that Karl Rove wasn't smart? He's usually described as an Evil Genius.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:43 PM
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So if we implement a single-payer healthcare system, there's a chance that rednecks will start up a lynch mob? Or if we pull out of Iraq, it will be unsafe for gays to walk the streets? Or if we raise taxes on the rich, suddenly we'll be setting up concentration camps for illegal immigrants?

What exactly is the mechanism at work here?


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:43 PM
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Tim is finally slightly tempering his regurgitated Pol Sci 101 cliches, and that's a good thing!

He has no idea what I am saying, however, at least as far as I can tell. What I said was that Kennedy and Roosevelt were partly populist and partly elitist, but that the Democrats have lost the populist part and now are mostly elitist. And that this costs them in several ways -- in campaigning due to their inability to present their own message effectively, in campaigning because they leave themselves wide open to cheap Republican counterattacks, and also in policy-formation.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:45 PM
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Wouldn't it be nice to have some set of guarantees that limit the worst excesses of populism? Then what you do, is you set up a system of government responsive to the populous at various levels of indirection. Perfect, huh? Nothing could go wrong.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:45 PM
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133: The mechanism at work is that in order to enact populist legislation, you apparently need to vote in politicians who are more populist than the present ones are. SCMT doubts that you are able to vet politicians for "populism, but only the good kind of populism." I think he has a point. How do you propose to do so?

This is distinct from the issue of whether or not elitism has cost the Democrats politically.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:48 PM
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I don't mean to minimize Tim's accomplishment. Regurgitated Pol Sci 101 cliches are damn hard to temper. It's almost a lost art.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:49 PM
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133: Wow, so populism means universal healthcare and pulling out of Iraq? Fear not, everyone's a populist on the Dem side, then. Utopia Now!


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:49 PM
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What I said was that Kennedy and Roosevelt were partly populist and partly elitist, but that the Democrats have lost the populist part and now are mostly elitist.

Presumably totally unconnected to the Democratic Party's repudiation of segregation.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:49 PM
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Well, those are both very broadly popular policies. I'm getting stuck on this conversation, because I'm not sure what 'populist' means, if not in a historical context, beyond 'appealing to a broad spectrum of middle and lower income voters'. I think the disagreement here may be coming from different definitions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:51 PM
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140 to 138.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:52 PM
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133: I think populism could get us health care. It might get us out of Iraq, and it probably lands us somewhere Casey-ish on abortion. No one ever is thrilled about raising taxes, but maybe a sufficiently clever populist leader could spin it the right way. But I am not sure that civil liberties are more popular than the prospect of defeating terrorists.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'populist', but I'd be willing to bet that ye olde average Americans' response to hearing about wiretapping, habeas, and the rest was mostly: at least they'll crack down on those illegal Mexican Muslim terrorists. I mean, I'm not a terrorist. Doesn't bother me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:52 PM
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I think that we should take our chances, frankly. DLC vigilance against left populism has left us wide open to Bush's near-fascist populism, and one DLC Senator (J. L*******n) has pretty much joined Bush.

This house is pretty safe from left-populist tigers, I think. We have other things to worry about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:52 PM
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I'm getting stuck on this conversation, because I'm not sure what 'populist' means, if not in a historical context, beyond 'appealing to a broad spectrum of middle and lower income voters'.

Me too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:53 PM
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Hubert Humphrey was a populist, and starting in 1948 he was one of the Democrats' leaders on civil rights.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:54 PM
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Regurgitated Pol Sci 101 cliches are damn hard to temper. It's almost a lost art.

Ignoring the Dems deal with the South, carrying through FDR and Kennedy, OTOH, is easier. When did Wallace first jump into Presidential politics, again?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:54 PM
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143: Okay, well, if we're making a distinction between "left" and "right" populism that changes things a bit.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:54 PM
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Why does Hunter S. Thompson hate Hubert Humphrey so much in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail? I could never figure that out.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:55 PM
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Hubert Humphrey was a populist, and starting in 1948 he was one of the Democrats' leaders on civil rights.

And look how well that turned out for him.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:55 PM
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148: Transferred hatred of LBJ? Come to think of it, I've never read F&LotCT. I probably should.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:57 PM
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Who wouldn't be?

The rich?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:57 PM
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148:You had to have been there. There were people actually expecting a Revolution in 1968, a Revolution betrayed by Daley & Humphrey.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:58 PM
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If populism is defined as identical to neo-Confederate bigotry, I don't support it. Is anyone proposing a return to that? Do you have any idea what exactly you're arguing against? You have a pretty simple-minded way of slapping on the populist label.

Most neo-Confederates are genteel types who yearn for the plantations. not populists. During the racists era (not over yet) most southern politicians of any stripe were racists.

Do you know who Floyd B. Olson was?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 12:59 PM
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I actually have no idea who Olson was. I should google.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:01 PM
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Humphrey got turned by LBJ. The Vietnam War killed them both. Humphrey was a lifelong advocate of civil rights, and LBJ (who had a populist streak) made it happen. George Wallace was specifically objecting to what they did. ("Populist" /= "demagogue" either.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:01 PM
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152, but the book is about the 1972 election, not 1968.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:02 PM
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Floyd Olson. Best line from the articleL

The next year, Olson enrolled at the University of Minnesota, but left after only a year, during which he was constantly in trouble for wearing a derby in violation of school rules and for refusing to participate in required ROTC drills.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:03 PM
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Humphrey was a primary candidate in 1972 -- still a player.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:06 PM
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Let's stipulate that Humphrey was a paragon among men, a champion of only right causes, and also that he's not going to run in any elections anytime soon. John, is it your argument that, Humphrey aside, populist sentiment naturally cuts pro-civil-rights? If so, what mechanism do you envision for this linkage?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:07 PM
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I don't have any particular objection to the kind of populism you're advocating, John, but I do have a sort of instinctive suspicion of populism in general. My people tend to get a raw deal from populism, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:08 PM
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You have a pretty simple-minded way of slapping on the populist label.

As opposed to you, who keeps reading a non-trivial part of the American populist experience out of itself? OK then.

Do you know who Floyd B. Olson was?

This guy? No more than that. How'd he do on the national stage?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:09 PM
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156:Some held grudges. Anyway, 1972 was about a Revolution in the Dem Party, and Humphrey was a counter-revolutionary. To a degree 1967-73 for Dems was about labor vs students (New Left) and splits within black politics, feminists, gays, greens, etc. HRT seemed excessive and vicious and enraged, but the 60s largely died aborning, as we see today. HRT didn't blame the most idealistic elements, in contrast to some LIBERALS not to be named. :)

Saw a little of this old Godard movie this week, with Yves Montand talking about how 1968 totally changed his life, with relationships broken forever.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:09 PM
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Do you think that the John Ashcroft hospital room scene will be in a movie? If so, who would play Gonzo?



Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:10 PM
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George Lopez.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:11 PM
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I wonder if he at least brought flowers. Or a Big Mac.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:15 PM
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Tim, he was the most successful left politician in American history. He was a populist and a democratic socialist. He was the single individual most responsible for making Minnesota a liberal stronghold, and he transformed the state. He would have run against FDR from the left in 1936, except that he got cancer.

You never even heard of him. Like I say, the canned Hofstader version that everyone gets in PolSci 101 is all you know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:15 PM
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Look, guys, Study up. You're ignorant. Your canned version of the history of populism is tendentious and slanted, and your assumption that any move at all in a populist direction will be exactly like the worst of the past is likewise tendentious.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:19 PM
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There were people actually expecting a Revolution in 1968,

Aren't you still expecting one of those, Bob?

Let me know if you get it, so I can hide my family.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:19 PM
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166: I've lost track, who's the one arguing against credentialism? Why should we think that extensive familiarity with someone who -- at least by your account -- was a highly exceptional individual, "the single most successful left politician in American history" working in the context of the Great Depression (which, just for the record, this ain't), is necessary in order to talk about populism today?

If there's a particular lesson you think can be drawn from Olson, point it out, don't argue from authority.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:21 PM
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Tim, as the Democrats abjure populism, that merely reduces the amount of worthwhile populism in the national debate. This is precisely the sort of unilateral disarmament by the Dems that put us where we are today.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:24 PM
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I was just pointing out that you can't talk about American populism if you don't even know who Olson was. That has nothing to do with credentialism, you guys lack key information. Do you have any grounds for your opinion other than some cherry-picked bigots? What I'm hearing hear is knee-jerk stuff.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:25 PM
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"here"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:25 PM
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he was the most successful left politician in American history.

You want to stick on that?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:25 PM
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168:I wasn't expecting anything in 1968.

Now I am expecting a putsch, and I suppose you & your family won't lose too many of your creature comforts.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:26 PM
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Your canned version of the history of populism is tendentious and slanted, and your assumption that any move at all in a populist direction will be exactly like the worst of the past is likewise tendentious.

John, I think you're writing the all of mass-movement American nativism out of history here. Olson and the Free Soilers aren't magically the representative of true populism any more than the American Party and George Wallace are.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:27 PM
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171: Do you have any grounds for your opinion other than some cherry-picked saints from generations past? I mean, I freely admit that I'm ignorant about populism. It's cool. Instruct me, sifu. But, could you please instruct by way of saying, "Here's how I think a populist movement today would look, and here's why I think these particular attitudes would come out of it," rather than the form of, "Can you recite the biography of a non-natoinal 1930's politician? If not, you must accept that I am right about everything!"


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:29 PM
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Thanks for more of the stereotype, Tim. Long and Olson were contemporaries. Both were populists, both dominated their states, and both were national figures. Long did more harm than good, Olson did much more good than harm. One is your standard cliche to trot out, as per everyone else who's studied Pol Sci 101, and the other one you've barely heard of.

Doesn't that suggest to you that you're ignorant and biased and should shut up until you've educated yourself? (And you too, Epoch).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:30 PM
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If you want to know what populism means to some of us in the current situation, google for the two words together: geoghegan and populism


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:31 PM
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But Emerson doesn't have to establish that bad populism doesn't exist to make his argument -- only that good populism has existed, and can exist in the future, and that a politics based on it would be a good thing. That's perfectly compatible with there also having been bad populist politicians and movements.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:31 PM
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What good are 1930s political credentials?


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:31 PM
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The whole anti-populist argument is based on a list of bad populists from the past, plus the assumption that any future populists will be bad in the same way. It's a biased list and an unjustified assumption.

What are your reasons for thinking the way you do, besides regurgitation?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:32 PM
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Instruct me, sifu.

Go fuck yourself, Grasshopper, and come back in ten years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:33 PM
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179: My claim is that there is such a thing as "bad populism," and that fear of the risk of it being the version that succeeds is a reasonable justification of the fear of populism. That there have been good examples isn't an answer at all, anymore than "ticking time bomb torture" answers worries about torture as a policy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:34 PM
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Snarkout, isn't it possible that Democrats could learn from the good populists without turning into bad populists?

Right at the moment i'm explaining to ignorant people that there were, indeed, some good populists.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:34 PM
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Why are you being so cranky, John? I don't see why this debate is so personal.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:36 PM
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Whoa, this is getting heated.

Where did the money come from for Olson to run his campaigns?

If he was around today, he would have to get enormous amounts of money from entrenched monopolistic industries and the rich in order to run his campaigns. Otherwise the media would not take him seriously.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:36 PM
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Well, this is a happy resolution to my problems that I was agreeing with Emerson too much.

Seriously, what the hell is your problem? Could it possibly be harder to just sketch out an actual argument than it has been to heap abuse on anyone who disagrees with you -- however mildly -- for like 50 posts in a row? If you don't want to argue it, why don't you just sit back and be smugly sure of your own ineffable rightness rather than, you know, argue it on the internet?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:37 PM
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Considering your abysmal lack of knowledge, Tim, I think that your judgment of populism should be ignored. Yes, there were bad populists, and I think that that's something to think about. Democratic elitists don't think about it, though, they just do their kneejerk. The Democratic elitist perception of populism is false, and the conclusions they derive from it are harmful in several different ways.

For almost two decades Democrats have favored corporate interest over the public interest. Not as badly as the republicans do, but badly. Changing that is what populism means.

Your "ticking time bomb" argument, if it was intended as an an argument, is unintelligible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:40 PM
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184 - Point taken. I'm just saying that the presumption doesn't automatically become that populist movements in America will arise on the left. I think Tim's is saying that conditions aren't right for an resurgence of Depression-style left populism (or even that of the 1890s or 1960s) and thus, regardless of whether left populism is historically possible in this country (which it obviously is) he feels that what you're more likely to get is something gross.

My personal objection is to the idea that populism and credentialism are opposites -- both Upton Sinclair's EPIC movement in California (I'll admit that I don't know a thing about Olson) and the Progressives strike as examples of technocratic populist movements from the left, as opposed to Huey Long or the Free Soilers.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:41 PM
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183: I'm not clear that just because 'good' and 'bad' populism share some points of similarity, that that means there's a substantial risk that the one will turn into the other. LBJ's populism didn't drag him away from, e.g., civil rights; neither did Humphrey's.

I shouldn't really get into this argument, because I still don't know enough, concretely, about what people mean by populism.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:41 PM
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Look, the anti-populist argument is based on nothing. Lurking in the background is an ignorant cartoon image of populism. There are actual specific populist issues that Democrats have abandoned -- supporting the average American against big finance, big business, etc. It's been 20 years since Democrats tried to do that. Anyone who tries that gets accused of populism, with George Wallace being taken as the exemplary populist. It's a stupid, insulting, false, cliche argument, here or anywhere else, but it rules the Democratic Party.

I don't think that Democrats should imitate ever Populist that there ever was. I think that they should quit rejecting populist ideas out of hand, as they've done for at least 20 years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:46 PM
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No one's denying that there were good populists. As I understand SCMTim, he's arguing not that there aren't good populists, but that there's a reasonable risk upon adopting 'populism' that the 'good populism' isn't the one that will succeed. Is there a way to separate 'left populism' from 'right populism'?

Since no one's explained exactly what they mean by populism (just a rhetorical shift? not allowing anyone with a Ph.D. into politics? appeal to the middle and lower classes? what?), it's hard to see whether Tim's criticism is on target.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:46 PM
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Considering your abysmal lack of knowledge, Tim, I think that your judgment of populism should be ignored.

Feel free to do so. I'm not actually coercing your responses.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:47 PM
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Furthermore, attempts to reclaim "populism" from the Hofstadler view have been a consistent part of left debate and advocacy for decades. It's realizing how little of that has sunk in, how congenial elite thinking is to large numbers of the educated middle class, who seem something like unaware of the potency of the issue, that's been kind of an unpleasant revelation to me. I thought this stuff was better-known and more developed and evolved.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:47 PM
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182, 187: I don't respond well to sarcasm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:47 PM
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192: Tim was unaware that there were good populists. All he knows is the short version of the stereotype argument. To my knowledge, the same is true of Epoch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:49 PM
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Is there anyone arguing here that policies that appeal to and benefit the middle and lower classes are a bad thing, or that Democrats shouldn't be fighting for them? Because from 191, that's most of what Emerson's calling populism. And really, I'd expect that anyone who calls themselves a Democrat should properly be able to agree on that much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:50 PM
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I think that the additional ingredient not mentioned is a willingness to confront big money. It just isn't all "win win". The rising tide hasn't raised all boats.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:54 PM
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194: My problem is that, in American politics, I can only talk to Democrats, but too often I'm reminded that I can't talk to them either. It's like I have to start at the very beginning over and over again. Tim and Epoch, aren't unrepresentative; I'm unrepresentative. To me, that adds an extra layer of hopelessness.

I do think that the anti-populist argument is as I said: erroneous, slanderous, and harmful in more than one way. But it's entrenched in the Democratic Party. A lot of Americans have been written off.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 1:59 PM
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I dunno. I'll agree that SCMT is probably pretty typical on reactions to the word populist -- George Wallace, Huey Long, corrupt, racist demogogues are going to eat your babies! But I'm not sure that there's all that much opposition, except at the level of professional politicians who have been corrupted by the need for campaign dollars, to let's call it 'schmopulism', defined as putting the interests of the middle and working class over the big money interests.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:03 PM
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what people mean by populism

Here's a start:

Populism is a political doctrine or philosophy that purports to defend the interests of the common people against an entrenched, self-serving or corrupt elite. There has often been dispute over definitions of populism, with some even arguing that the term is too vague to be useful. Recently, in their volume Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy, Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell define populism as "an ideology which pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous 'others' who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).

My specific concern is what the easiest standard for "virtuous and homogeneous" is likely to be in this country at this moment. You can get a sense of potential flavors here, with possible results favorable to Emerson and not. There's more at the wiki link, including further disputations of the usefulness of "populism," and a listing of various populist politicians from around the globe, left and right.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:03 PM
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It's my impression that one actual accomplishment of the Bush 43 Misadministration has been to drive nearly all practicing scientists out of the Republican party.

I'm an engineer; have been for twenty five years.
I'm afraid that I _have_ known a very small number of engineers who were actually stupid. I confess that I am at a loss to explain how they got through physics and diffferential equations without learning to think, but they seem to have accomplished that feat.

Of course, one can become stupid later in life, even without ingesting lead or cadmium.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:05 PM
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192: There is a know-it-when-you-see-it quality to populism. You'll note that Emerson hasn't denied any of Tim's examples of populism, just argued for an expanded list of examples - and Tim, for that matter, hasn't denied any of Emerson's expanded examples. I think you have summarized Tim correctly here:

As I understand SCMTim, he's arguing not that there aren't good populists, but that there's a reasonable risk upon adopting 'populism' that the 'good populism' isn't the one that will succeed.

I take this to be Tim's argument also, and I think Emerson's 191, in combination with my own 170, offer a complete response. If you outlaw populism, only outlaws use populism.

How 'bout it, Tim: Has Cala got you right?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:08 PM
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I found that wiki immensely unsatisfactory.

I note in passing that the author offers this with what I presume is a straight face: Jonah Goldberg and others argue that in modern society...


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:13 PM
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I think that the name "populism" has to be rehabilitated. Anytime anyone says anything that seems populist, or uses rhetoric that seems populist, they will be jumped on anyway, whether or not they actually use the word. The accusation of "populism" has to stop being understood as a drop-dead argument. There's good and bad populism, and I think that a Democratic Party without populism (by which I mean the actually-existing Democratic Party) will tend to lose and will also tend to favor finance and big money -- often both.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:13 PM
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How 'bout it, Tim: Has Cala got you right?

Yes. I genuinely don't understand how there could be confusion on that point.

There is a know-it-when-you-see-it quality to populism.

The most populist-feeling movement of recent years that I can think of is the somewhat nativist anti-immigration movement. With which I disagree, but can understand the sentiments motivating it.

Can you think of a more populist movement in recent years?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:14 PM
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197: Right, but there's something missing, or else we'd just call it the standard Democratic platform and wouldn't need the 'populist' label. I've read about historical populism, but I'm not sure what distinguishes it in 2007. More union support? (Does that play out as anti-Hispanic immigrant, undercutting the American working man?) Sticking it to big business (sounds good to me.) America for Americans? (uh....) Securing our borders against the foreign menace? (hmmm...)

I don't see a reason that you couldn't have good populism on its own, but I do worry that any strong populist sentiment in the current political climate is going to be strongly anti-immigrant.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:19 PM
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Yeah, I see Dobbs, from a right populist perspective, reaching a lot of natural Democrats (e.g. workers threatened by recent trends). I don't see the Democrats working to keep them. (Some nativists are natural Republicans, but a lot aren't).

These may be not-nice people, but some of them are people the Democrats need. They don't have to be reached via nativism, but they have to be reached somehow.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:19 PM
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Can you think of a more populist movement in recent years?

Well, Edwards has been kinda-sorta trying, but I think we can agree that he's rather weak tea, as populists go.

Gosh, though, this seems to be precisely Emerson's point: No, there hasn't been a populist movement lately that wasn't dominated by ignorance and bigotry. The correct response, however, is not to eschew populism, but to appeal to populism more appropriately.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:20 PM
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I don't mean to be thick here, but what qualifies as a movement? Edwards is running a campaign on some very populist themes (ones I generally support). That's a political campaign rather than a grassroots movement, but I'd argue that the immigration stuff was generated from the top as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:20 PM
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205:The elitism of the technocrats is probably a legacy of the 60s, and how the 60s is taught to kids like Klein & Yglesias. Can't let the "Puppet People" take over the Party. I see it in DeLong & Krugman:"They just don't get Comparative Advantage, and we can't let people who don't know Econ 101 get any powet."

And preserving & protecting the existing "institutions", as the liberals feel today. This was exactly the fight in the Dem Party in the late 60s, and partly why HRT hated Humphrey. Delegate selection methods.

I suppose "populism" is going the way of "socialism" and "syndicalism", some ideas and strategies are becoming literally unthinkable.

Mentioning HRT has fucking depressed me. He took a look at the aughts and shot himself.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:25 PM
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I'd argue that the immigration stuff was generated from the top as well.

Feel free to do so, obv., but I massively disagree. Perhaps it depends on where you've spent various bits of time. I've heard versions of what we're hearing now for a long, long time. Certainly back through the 90s in some areas, and probably prior to the Reagan amnesty.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:27 PM
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Isn't there a great Humphrey quote, about Dukakis and "process liberalism" and "the shit coming out of the pipe?"


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:30 PM
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Prop 187, anybody?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:31 PM
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I'd cite Michael Moore as a good example of positive populism, and I wish we had a national politician today who tried to harness this sort of thing.

Kucinich, whatever his virtues, hasn't really been a populist as a presidential candidate - but as Cleveland mayor he was a damned effective populist. Howard Dean's instincts aren't really populist, and when he more-or-less accidentally tapped into a populist groundswell, he didn't know what to do with it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:31 PM
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This was exactly the fight in the Dem Party in the late 60s, and partly why HRT hated Humphrey.

Bob, I think I can see where you and I part company: I'm one of those Democrats who think that the Left's revulsion for Humphrey, while understandable, was a mistake. The actual problem with the DFHs - as opposed to the media-inspired narrative - is a lack of interest in making a deal when push came to shove.

The modern analog is the left's revulsion for Hillary. If, in these debased times, we end up having to accept Hillary as president, that's a deal we should take without undue bitching.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:39 PM
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215:"...and I wish we had a national politician today who tried to harness this sort of thing."

And herein lies part of the problem. Edwards (or Guiliani or Kucinich) must save us;it's all about the leaders, we can have good leaders or bad leaders but we must have leaders to praise or blame. BDS is indeed a symptom of weakness on the left.

Yeah, populism will involve a hating, a hating of millions of actual neighbors, not just the convenient scapegoats and symbols.

I can't believe Emerson kissed up to John Cole over at CT. Fucker voted for Bush twice, and he will not be a reliable ally in the future. Cole remains a motherfucking conservative Republican.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:39 PM
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Maybe we could propose a tentative distinction. Populism, broadly conceived, purports to stand up for the "little guy." Right-wing populism claims that the best way to stand up for the "little guy" is to scapegoat some particular subset of "little guys" (Jews, Mexicans, whoever) and leave the people who are actually screwing the "little guy" untouched. Left-wing populism claims that the best way to stand up for the "little guy" is to combat the people who actually are screwing over the "little guy" -- i.e., corporate interests, etc.

John Edwards is doing a fairly mild version of left-wing populism, and it sounds really radical in the US -- and this is the sole responsibility of SCMT. He personally is destroying this country.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:41 PM
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I just apologized for insulting him repeatedly, Bob. I gave him my best shot a bunch of times, on the theory (which I believe that I explicitly stated) that he was a liar incapable of rational thought. At this point, I'm grateful to see an actual conservative. Beggars can't be choosers. Tim here is well left of center in the American scheme.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:44 PM
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216:Yeah, forty years of conservative ascendancy is all the fault of 2% on the far left. We scared moderates.

Jesus, I am gonna miss Max.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:45 PM
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220: Similar to how Nader voters were the ones who caused Bush, in the last analysis. Not rigging the vote in Florida, not Gore's tepid campaign, not the corrupt media, not the Supreme Court's bullshit -- it was all those idealistic lefties, fucking morons.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:51 PM
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I haven't read the whole thread, but I'm going to quibble with 218, mainly because I don't think definitions should include the clause "and I'm right about everything". The little guy actually wants some other subset of little guys held down. Some fraction of nativist sentiment is because some fraction of Americans hate Mexican immigrants. They haven't all been misled into this by big business or the Republican party or Tom Tancredo or something. They just hate Mexican immigrants, and would be happier if we kicked them out of the country. Likewise, some fraction of George Wallace's support came from people who genuinely wanted black people oppressed to be held down, not for any instrumentalist reason, but because they genuinely preferred a world in which black people were oppressed than one where they were not.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:52 PM
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220: We scared moderates.

No, if I wasn't clear, that's the media-sponsored narrative that I reject. Fact is, Humphrey coulda won in '68 and he didn't. Lots of people would have been a lot better off if he had won, I think.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:55 PM
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Surely out of "Nader voters", "rigging the vote in Florida", "Gore's tepid campaign", "the corrupt media", and "the Supreme Court's bullshit", the Nader voters were the ones who were theoretically most opposed to what the Bush administration has done in the last seven years.

When you have one group of people that prefers being in the right but out of power to compromising their principles and being in power, and another group that feels the opposite way, it's pretty clear who's going to end up running things.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:55 PM
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222: Fuck that postmodern relativism! No matter how "sincerely" people believe racist things, they are wrong to do so, and they are objectively misdiagnosing the cause of the social disruptions they're witnessing. For instance, the decline of the institution of marriage is not actually being caused by gays -- read the stats, the number one cause of marital strife is... money! We need a dose of good old-fashioned "vulgar Marxism."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 2:56 PM
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225:And that vulgar Marxism will not only find enemies in DeLong and Krugman, but also in the wonks and technocrats like Klein & Yglesias.

That's how it works. Bottom-up. We burned the cities and shot at the cops, and we didn't end the war, but the left got OSHA and EPA and Roe, because the PTB felt they had to give us something.
More specfically, Nixon had to keep Congress off his ass.

You are not gonna get Edwards, if you are very lucky we will get Clinton or Obama. And they won't give us shit unless they are fucking terrified.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:05 PM
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Also, some fraction of Hugh Hewitt's listeners are not amenable to a left-wing populist message from the Adam Kotskos of the world even if they believe some parts of the message, because they think the real goal of Kotskos is not to help them against the current elite, but to displace that elite to become a new elite over them.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:06 PM
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Okay, look, I don't want to make this the Thread of Why Is John The Way He Is, but dude, your hostility was not in response to sarcasm -- you were attacking people from the outset, and I was at no point particularly sarcastic.

Second: while, I reiterate, I don't know too much about populism, and hence couldn't have given you the name of a particular populist, my point never was that nothing good could come of a populist movement or that anything associated with populism was inherently flawed. I don't regard "embraced by the masses" as a particularly compelling virtue of any given policy, but neither is it a damning flaw. If you "damning flaw" into my responses, I'm going to go ahead and suggest that that may have to do with the fact that you seem to have conceived of this thread as an out and out battle from the beginning.

Three: Pointing me out as the face of modern Democrats is kind of funny. I'm not a Democrat.

On the actual subject: I think that nobody will really disagree that people should judge ideas on their merits, that bad people have had or have misappropriated good ideas, that there's no sense in damning a sort of vague, conceptual ideology by association with some bad people.

But what I'm interested in here is whether anyone's willing to stand up for populism not just as "not a negative," but a positive, and not a political strategy, but a test? That is, let's suppose there's an issue on which one has to make a stand. If one side of that issue is "the populist side," and the other is "the anti-populist side," does that say anything about which side is "right"?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:08 PM
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227 was not a reply to 222.

Adam, in what sense are they wrong? Morally? That I would agree with, but I assume you mean something else.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:09 PM
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221: Well, yeah, I recognize the sarcasm, but you've caught the distinction I was trying to convey to Bob. Except I wouldn't call them "idealistic lefties, fucking morons." I'd call them "anti-majoritarian lefties, fucking morons."

If you want to blame vote-rigging, or Gore's campaign, or the media or the Court, of course those are worthy of blame, too.

But why not just go all the way and blame the Republicans for running a candidate at all? Surely Republicans are human beings with agency, and could have chosen not to run a candidate. Nobody is more to blame for Republicanism than Republicans.

But the existence of Republicans - or the Court or the media or whatever - doesn't excuse the Naderites. Quite the contrary, it makes it worse that the Naderites were indifferent to Gore when they should have known what was at stake.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:09 PM
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No matter how "sincerely" people believe racist things, they are wrong to do so, and they are objectively misdiagnosing the cause of the social disruptions they're witnessing.

If SCMT had said this it would be an example of defending "elitism" against "populism".

This points out a tension behind a lot of this disagreement, the difference between attempting to implement policies which will help a majority of working/middle-class individuals and political campaigns courting woking/middle-class votes by creating a narrative of "us-vs-them" (and I do think that's a key element of populism).

Everyone agrees with the former, the debate is about the latter and is a twofold debate, on one hand "is it possible to create an us-vs-them political narrative without encouraging nativism" and, secondly, "is this the best way to sell policies designed to help people."

I'm torn because I'd love to see a strong left populist movement in this country and, at the same time, I have absolutely no ear for populist rhetoric, so I'm relying on the judgement of others about whether any particular piece of populist rhetoric will or will not be effective at either winning elections or getting people to buy into a "good" us vs them narrative (labor vs capital) rather than a "bad" narrative.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:09 PM
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229: Not Adam, but I assume he does mean morally. On my own behalf, I'd say I'm all for populism until it becomes racist or otherwise immoral, and I don't see a necessary linkage by which the kind of populism I support will turn into the kind of populism I don't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:13 PM
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('Populism' in my last understood to mean policies calculated to benefit and appeal to the middle and working class.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:14 PM
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Jesus, I am gonna miss Max

Me too. Another person very important to me, particularly in that dreadful spring and summer of '03.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:15 PM
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Okay, I scrolled up some more. Populism has gotten a bad rap, and I think this is entirely the doing of the media. The Democratic elite has come to reflect the media consensus. (Democratic politicians would try to position themselves as populists in the Presidential primary race, and the media would always punish them for it.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:17 PM
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What's the difference between the middle and working class? Who should Democrats appeal to? What range of the income/wealth distribution in America should Democrats appeal to?


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:22 PM
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When I lead the coming populist revolution, discussing Nader in internet forums will be illegal. Also, mayonnaise.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:24 PM
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I think it's possible to coherently craft policies that are within the best interests of, say, the bottom 80% of the income distribution, and even that's a conservative estimate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:26 PM
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229: I mean morally, but also factually. For instance, there really wasn't a Jewish plot against the German nation in the 1930s. Mexicans are not actually "stealing our jobs." Gays are not breaking up marriages (at least not those in which both partners are heterosexual).


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:27 PM
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237: You need to try mayonnaise in France. (I assume since you want to ban discussion you also have a distaste for the product.) I agree that Hellman's and Kraft are disgusting.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:30 PM
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Ok, I was going to write 231, but NickS beat me to it. Adam, your 218 and 225 combine to say that Left-wing populism is defending the little guy against the people and institutions that are harming him, where harm is defined in an objective, liberal way with complete certainty and no bias. I think that this is the ideal of liberalism on the whole, and can hardly be claimed as solely Populism. Especially if it requires ignoring very popular measures and biases among the political base that would be considered ugly and bigoted by the elites, which goes against the very methods of Populism as far as I know them.

Emerson seems to believe in a similar ideal form of Populism, as evidenced by a one-term Minnesotan governer who implemented similar reforms to Roosevelt (someone who is hardly disavowed by most Democrats, unless they're talking about his attempted power-grabs that threatened judicial review, etc.) and then died without even being allowed to nationalize anything.

Surely good liberal ideas exist and may be assessed without regard to their popularity? If an idea is sound and based on liberal principles, it should be pushed hardest when it is most popular just because that's political horse sense, but does that make such a policy populist? Isn't defense of the minority (in numbers, wealth, or political power) from the tyranny of the majority a central tenet of liberalism? If that's the case, what distinguishes populism from liberalism, apart from populism's willingness to pursue policies with wide grassroots support without much regard for the policies' intellectual and philosophical underpinnings?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:31 PM
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240: I would be curious to see Ben's interpretation, but I think from the structure of that sentence, we have to assume that Walt would ban mayonnaise, not merely the discussion of it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:33 PM
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Okay, let's take a specific example. One of the areas in which leftists (ignoring trade for a moment) have been most annoyed at the Democrats have been pandering to the credit industry. From the bankruptcy bill, to insufficient regulation of predatory lending and the mortgage industry.

We also know that financial service companies have been major contributors to Democratic politicians.

I submit that a democrat who opposed the bankruptcy bill and supported more regulation of the credit and mortgage industries would be taking a policy position that would be better for working/middle class.

Do you think (1) such a Democrat would have a better chance of being elected, assuming that they were not taking contributions from the financial services industry and (2) would that change in policy be enough to call that Democrat a "populist" assuming the rest of their policy positions were left-to-mainstream Democratic positions?

I'm not sure about (1), but I assume the answer to (2) is "no." How much of a break from mainstream Democratic policies would a politician have to make to be considered "populist? Are we mostly talking about a policy difference or a difference in rhetoric?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:37 PM
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Epoch, I was succumbing to hopelessness. You basically asked me to start from zero, as did Tim, and I found it dispiriting at this late date. When I gave a counterexample to the idea that all populists are bad, you ruled that evidence out of order.

"Instruct me sifu" didn't seem friendly to me.

I've always supported some sort of egalitarian politics, and in general Democrats have been the only party that might agree on that, but they seem to have jettisoned that part of their past to the extent not only of trimming their policy proposals and even running weak campaigns.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:37 PM
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239: That's surely true, but now it doesn't sound 'populist' as in the grassrootsy-down-with-the-elites-and-their-nuanced-reasoning sense. Because you're going to be telling that working class guy who thinks the Mexicans are invading his business* that he's actually wrong about that.. and that's just sounding like a standard liberal position, easily caricatured as elitist.

*N.B. not sure this is actually true since IMX there's a lot more fidgety upper-middle class white people worried about invading Mexicans and what it's doing to American labor than actual working class people worried about it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:40 PM
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Because you're going to be telling that working class guy who thinks the Mexicans are invading his business* that he's actually wrong about that.. and that's just sounding like a standard liberal position, easily caricatured as elitist.

Oh, you can make it sound populist. Picture it coming from Michael Moore, directed at a mob of people waving torches: "The big shot fat-cats are trying to make you think you're having a hard time because Mexicans are stealing your jobs, while they relax on their corporate jets. It's a scam!..." I can't actually do the rhetoric myself, but I'm sure it's doable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:45 PM
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Moore could certainly nail it. Could a politician? Do we need a politician to nail it, too?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:48 PM
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but I'm sure it's doable.

Color me a bit doubtful. The one place I thought I had agreement with Emerson in this discussion was in the belief that we're too quick to assume that downmarket or non-professional or whatever voters are morons. There have been many replies to "What's The Matter With Kansas?"; I find the nub of some of them--that Kansans are doing OK, and it makes perfect sense to choose "values" over economics, esp. when the magnitude of the economic benefits are somewhat unclear--convincing.

A lot of the disagreement is driven by (and I'm sure there's a better way to phrase this) what social science you think best describes particular groups of Americans at this time. I'm not so sure it's economics right now.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:52 PM
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Picture it coming from Michael Moore, directed at a mob of people waving torches: "The big shot fat-cats are trying to make you think you're having a hard time because Mexicans are stealing your jobs, while they relax on their corporate jets. It's a scam!..."

But would this even be true? A lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric focuses on government services (which is a very anti-Democrat way of thinking, and would do nothing for corporations) or on NAFTA (which has a lot of corporate support, so why would they support a movement against it?).

I mean, I'm all for removing much of corporate influence from the process of governance, but that's less a job for populism than a job for unexciting process reforms (earmark limitations, public election financing, and a super-hard slog to get responsible reporting on issues from the media).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:57 PM
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John: I'm not asking you to give me an undergraduate education here, or anything. Just... sketch out something. If there's some reason why this is an argument that can only be understood if you've got years of education on the subject, point out what the complexity is.

"Instruct me sifu" was friendly! It was a jokey way of acknowledging that you know more about the subject than I.

LizardBreath: I think this is one of the main areas of confusion that I'm coming into here. Are people arguing for "populism" purely as a political strategy? Like, "Given that you want to do A, B, and C, why don't you sell policy A as a populist policy"? Or is there someone who thinks that there is some actual inherent virtue in policies that genuinely are favored by large numbers of middle- and working-class people?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:57 PM
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248: If you're assuming that your audience has more sense than to believe that immigrants are stealing their jobs, then there's no function for populist rhetoric on that point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:57 PM
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251: Even if they're not stealing your job, they're changing your neighborhood. "No one even speaks Englsh anymore," etc.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 3:59 PM
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Olson was far ahead of Roosevelt. He was governor for 4 1/2 years and then he died. He wasn't a one-term governor, and he and the people he worked with transformed the state permanently in a very positive way.

I had hoped that I would be allowed to advocate populism in its best rather than in its worst form, but apparently that's regarded as cheating around here. So hey, I support George Wallace too! Lynch more N*****s! Happy now, guys?

Originally I thought I was arguing against the mindless, automatic, knee-jerk rejection of populism, but I was mistaken. Sorry, guys.

I probably should leave and go off with McManus.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:01 PM
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I would totally ban mayonnaise, and not just the discussion of it.

"Gay marriage hurts marriage" is just the public articulation of an inchoate reaction. The real reaction I think (based on several angry conversations with certain relatives) is basically Rick Santorum's: Gays are disgusting and unnatural. What next, people marrying their dogs? This is an irrational prejudice, but one that's sincerely felt, and not just an anger deflected from their true target.

I suppose populist sentiment can be based on factual error (say the idea that Poland is about to invade Nazi Germany, so we must strike first!), and any populist support for the Iraq war would have been of that sort.

I'm less happy endorsing "Mexican immigrants are stealing our jobs" is a factual error, even though I don't think Mexican immigrants are stealing our jobs. This requires a particular world-view that is not obviously correct, a world-view that is only naturally held by an elite. Economists would characterize anti-free-trade sentiment as a populist factual error, for example.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:03 PM
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Jeebus, Emerson. You're just committed to the position that anything but happy-pappy dismissal of any possible problems with populism is knee-jerk. Why precisely is this is so different than a gun nut saying that there are good gun owners and sometimes a concealed weapon has saved lives? True. And yet somehow people still end up being wary of conceal and carry licenses. Those knee-jerk assholes.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:06 PM
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I had hoped that I would be allowed to advocate populism in its best rather than in its worst form, but apparently that's regarded as cheating around here.

Perhaps you would get a better reaction if you would name some specific policies that you consider populist (in our time, not Olson's). It's hard to figure out what you mean by populist when you keep talking in generalities.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:07 PM
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Basically economists decided that only 2% of Americans would be hurt by free trade, and their wages would only go down 8%, and that's Kaldor-Hicks efficient because the advantages society-wide were far greater than than the total loss of the losers.

Good economics, bad politics. Democrats should never have signed on, because 8% is quite a lot if you're low on the totem pole, and most of the 2% were Democrats, and a lot of people not firectly hurt had friends and family in the 2%.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:08 PM
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Or is there someone who thinks that there is some actual inherent virtue in policies that genuinely are favored by large numbers of middle- and working-class people?

Um, me? This assumes that the said large numbers have enough sense to see what side their bread is buttered on (that is, they're not favoring policies requiring them to be loaded on conveyor belts and fed into rotating knives) and doesn't override all other considerations of justice, but generally, I'd say that the policies that benefit the greatest number are good policies, and that if the greatest number understands what's going on, which there's no reason to think they systematically won't, they're probably going to favor those policies.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:08 PM
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And yet somehow people still end up being wary of conceal and carry licenses. Those knee-jerk assholes.

Assholes!


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:10 PM
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and that if the greatest number understands what's going on,

And there's where you get your technocrats. I don't think anyone would disagree with your position. The question is: what do you do if the elites/technocrats disagree with the masses? There are, after all, at least states in which Republicans are strong and have proposed legislation...and I think even passed it...that some people would be uncomfortable with. (I'm thinking of the anti-gay propositions and the like. I guess you could throw Prop 187 in there, and the Ward Connelly thing, too.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:13 PM
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if the greatest number understands what's going on, which there's no reason to think they systematically won't

I wish I were that optimistic, but I do think people are extraordinarily bad at understanding what's going on in an not-insignificant number of cases. We're flying without a definition of populism here, but I think it's a non-negligible risk that the populist position is antithetical to decent lefty ends.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:13 PM
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You're just committed to the position that anything but happy-pappy dismissal of any possible problems with populism is knee-jerk.

I'm actually not really following your argument. I get that there have been racist, nativist, and so forth populists. I don't get how that establishes that a populist approach on issues of broad appeal is likely to lead to racism, nativism, and so on -- are there populist politicians you're thinking of who started good and turned, or what?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:14 PM
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Fuck the politically minded, there's something I want you to watch: From the people who brought you ISAG 2000: RNC 2008!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:15 PM
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are there populist politicians you're thinking of who started good and turned, or what?

Tom Watson, for one. But the real argument is that you cannot just ride a tiger where you want. It is entirely possible that many good policies would succeed because of broad populist appeals. The question is what else will succeed, and how much we should trust that there's some filter.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:16 PM
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I really hate Unfogged on politics. Good on snark, good on cock jokes, crappy on politics.

I was assuming that people knew what populism was: supporting the average person even at the cost of big business, etc.

Tim, I was not asking everyone to accept all the populism that there ever has been in every respect. I was saying a.) that there were beneficial forms of populism of which you were unaware (though I've been chastised twice now for bringing that up), b.) the Democratic Party has rejected populism in a knee-jerk way for some time now, c.) this has hurt the Democrats both electorally and policywise, and d.) it's sort of stupid to worry about the mere possibility of Democratic populism when we're in the grip of a highly malign Republican populism.

As far as I can tell, the absolutist position has been yours -- immediate suspicion of populism. And you seem much less embarrassed than you should be by your ignorance of the positive forms of populism.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:16 PM
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260, 261: You know, the working and middle class would go apeshit for UHC if it looked like it had a shot. While lunchbox issues aren't the only issues, I think they're reliably popular if tried.

I mean, if it's the case that there are absolutely no policies that are both a good idea and would be broadly popular, than (1) man that sucks, and (2) populism is a bad idea, we have to keep the people away from the polls at all costs. I just don't think that's a reliable premise to work from.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:17 PM
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Both the Kennedy administration and FDR has both technocratic sides and populist sides. The Democrats seem to have been drifting toward pure technocracy, to the point of being unable to make an effective case.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:18 PM
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I was assuming that people knew what populism was: supporting the average person even at the cost of big business, etc.

Sure, but what does this mean in practice? And what's covered by that "etc."? And who's the "average person"?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:19 PM
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258: Awesome. I honestly could not tell up 'til now whether or not anyone was advocating that opinion.

So, can you expand on why you think that? I mean, let's say there's a policy -- I wish I could think up a good example here -- that you're kind of neutral about, maybe tending slightly towards negative, but it doesn't feel really strongly about. As I understand you, all else being equal, if a large majority of middle and working-class people favor that policy, you'd get on board with it. Is that an accurate thing to say?

What makes the approval of this mass of people a positive trait for you? Are you assuming that they know something that you don't? That even if they're wrong, their right to self-determination has a certain value? That they are owed self-determination due to their relatively low socioeconomic status? Something else?


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:23 PM
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And you seem much less embarrassed than you should be by your ignorance of the positive forms of populism.

Gawd, this is so fucking irritating, Emerson. I am exactly as embarrassed as I should be. Prove me wrong, big guy. Prove me wrong.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:24 PM
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I was assuming that people knew what populism was: supporting the average person even at the cost of big business, etc.

That's what populism is? I was assuming that everyone including you thought populism meant supporting policies that are favored by the working class.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:25 PM
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266: I'd agree, but I think that whether there are no policies whatsoever that would be broadly popular (a really loose definition of populist -- was the war against the Taliban populist?) is not the question, but whether you can separate, say populism-for-UHC (good!) from populism-for-immigration reform (scares the shit out of me) or populism-for-foreign policy (probably means Tehran is toast.)

I'm imagining this as a political stance that has certain principles, and to the extent that populism defines itself as against elitism, that means it's going to give up access to the 'what's the matter with kansas' sort of rhetoric.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:26 PM
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teo, I'm sorry, but hearing young people come at us with this is making us depressed and angry. I suggested a google search that would show the word being used in contemporary settings. I can't count the number of articles serious political magazines have made over the last several decades, reconsidering populism, and usually concluding we need something like to make progress.

Those late books of Lasch's and any number articles by Thom Frank, Geoghegan and others, constitute the beginning of an answer.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:27 PM
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The difference between saying "are good for" and "are supported by" seems to be key, here. Saying that there can be a difference between them is an pro-elite technocrat argument all by itself.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:28 PM
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I don't think this thread or blog is the time or place to expand on this, actually.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:29 PM
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274: Exactly. I always thought populism was a strategy used by politicans to get votes, not an actual ideology or a coherent set of policies. That's how the media uses the word.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:30 PM
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274: Exactly. I always thought populism was a strategy used by politicans to get votes, not an actual ideology or set of policies. That's how the media uses the word.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:30 PM
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Drat.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:30 PM
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Maybe Cala's implication is right: maybe the definitional problem is too large. I like the wiki quotation in 201, particularly for the use of "homogeneous,"virtuous," and "other." Maybe the way to get at my uneasiness is this: pick the "other" you want. Now pick a first and second alternate other. I think--if we're not subdividing rich and corporations and financial interests--you run into uncomfortable "others" quickly, especially when our ""others" have to compete, as others, against their "others."

And to be clear, Emerson, my point all along has been that I am uneasy about populism for reasonable reasons. Not that it's always wrong, etc.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:31 PM
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Any political tendency or opinion that lacks a class analysis is useless.

If by populism, we mean a sort-of pre-revolutionary class consciousness that advocates for worker's rights, basic human rights, less-than-completely-confiscatory redistribution of wealth and the ongoing construction and support of working-class institutions, then I think populism is a step in the right direction.

If by populism we mean any unpopular demagoguery that we can use to bludgeon the advocates of the populism referenced above, then I think we are talking out of our ass.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:32 PM
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Conversely, Tim, you sound kind of concern-trollish. "I am uneasy about populism". What, because everything else has been so great?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:32 PM
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The thing is, I'd agree that there can be a difference between policies supported by the working class, and policies good for the working class, or good in general. But I also think, contra 269, that policies good for the working class are also likely to be supported by the working class; universal sufferage is premised on the idea that people have some sense of what's good for them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:33 PM
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John, you're failing to recognize that you won the argument. No one will actually say that you're right, because that would break the internet. Populism has been the subject of a media smear campaign, pretty much from the day the media became an elite, so it's not surprising that so many people have only ever heard bad things about it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:33 PM
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I may just be cranky about populism right now because I've been reading about the antebellum South. (Not the kind of thing that endears one to the common man.) I generally swing back and forth on this sort of issue.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:34 PM
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Conversely, Tim, you sound kind of concern-trollish. "I am uneasy about populism". What, because everything else has been so great?

Fuck off. Tell Padilla the people done him right. Or, you know, tell ogged to cheer up when he next writes one of those "fall of the Republic" posts worrying about whether he needs to jet to fucking Canada before some bad thing happens here. Because, hey, the people have his back.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:36 PM
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"unpopular demagoguery" Umm, yeah, my l'esprit de l'escalier points out that this is a contradiction in terms. What I meant was "unpleasant, historically maligned demagogy".


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:36 PM
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OK, question. Does the word "populist" mean something other than "demagogue"? If so, it doesn't in today's media.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:38 PM
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OK, question. Does the word "populist" mean something other than "demagogue"? If so, it doesn't in today's media

Gosh, I wonder why that is?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:40 PM
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But I also think, contra 269, that policies good for the working class are also likely to be supported by the working class; universal sufferage is premised on the idea that people have some sense of what's good for them.

But, and I think this is Tim's point, there are a bunch of other policies that the working class is going to support as well which aren't all necessarily beneficial, and there isn't really a reliable way to distinguish the one set of policies from the other without appealing to technocratic elitism.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:40 PM
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Fuck, people, we reached comity like 200 comments ago. There have been good populists, and bad populists. At this point, is anyone arguing otherwise?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:42 PM
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Is any exercise of judgment technocratic elitism? I don't think it is. Making a populist appeal doesn't have to mean (or at least I don't know why it should mean) abandoning all your personal judgment in favor of what the mob wants. What's inconsistent about advocating a policy both because you think it's a good idea, and because it's broadly popular and beneficial?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:44 PM
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What's inconsistent about advocating a policy both because you think it's a good idea, and because it's broadly popular and beneficial?

Nothing. I don't think "good ideas that are broadly popular and beneficial" distinguish populism for most people.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:47 PM
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But choosing among possible good policies on the basis of which have broad populist appeal isn't crazy, right? Couching your advocacy of them in populist terms isn't obviously going to lead to anything bad, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:48 PM
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289 -- I think this is right, and when you couple it with the notion that once a populist movement gets really going, no one can control what gets into the mix and what gets left out, it's easy for a member of the elite (of whichever flavor) to be pretty scared of populism. You start your crusade to rein in 'predatory' lending, and maybe you just set off a worldwide financial panic, or maybe you end up with people wanting to do something about 'New York bankers.' Or both.

That said, I'm happy to see Dem politicians that embody a mix: Brian Schweitzer, for example.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:50 PM
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LB, I think in this discussion you need to include 'anti-elite' in the definition of populism. It's not just a popular policy. It's a popular policy that is disproportionately advantageous to non-elites.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:53 PM
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293: But how is this different from what politicians from both parties do every day? I can't think of a politician running for President who isn't (a) choosing among possible good policies on the basis of which have broad populist appeal, or (b) advocating for them in terms of being good for the "little guy."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:53 PM
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289:

Here is an example:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070701faessay86403/kenneth-f-scheve-matthew-j-slaughter/a-new-deal-for-globalization.html

I still want to know who is working class (based on income? wealth? education?) And how many people who read and comment on unfogged are working class?


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:54 PM
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What's inconsistent about advocating a policy both because you think it's a good idea, and because it's broadly popular and beneficial?\

What value does the broad popularity add? Does it really become a more sensible policy because a lot of people support it (assuming two policies that you can confidently assess as positive), or does it just become the sensible policy that is more likely to pass?

I tend to develop my inchoate bearings on any issue by looking at the popularity of various positions and the supporters of the various solutions. Then I come to a much more confident assessment by listening to the various experts and making my own choice. Populism seems to suggest swapping those two steps.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:54 PM
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Much pf the antebellum south was an elitist planter society.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:57 PM
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LB, I think 'populism', if it is to be distinguished from the merely popular 'popular', has to include making someone The Man who is at fault. I don't mind this in terms of business, but I worry that that thinking is contagious.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:57 PM
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298: It's a fair check on who it's actually beneficial to, don't you think? I bow to none in my high estimation of my own policy judgment, but I'm an upper income urban professional, and I'm probably going to be somewhat swayed by things that are directly good for me and my kind. A policy that I'm pretty sure is going to be broadly popular because it directly benefits a broad spectrum of the population, has a shot of being a better policy than something that only I can see the rarefied point of. Not always, and not in all circumstances, but yeah, I think the popularity of a policy is worth considering.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 4:59 PM
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I don't mind this in terms of business, but I worry that that thinking is contagious.

I guess I don't worry as much about it as you and Tim do. I think it's possible to direct hostility at, say, credit card companies, and not get sucked into directing the same hostility at Mexican immigrants. I might be overly sanguine about this, given the number of people I'm disagreeing with here, but it just doesn't seem like a huge risk if you hold onto your principles.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:02 PM
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I share IDP's depression. By now I'm willing to concede that Po-Po and Epoch disagree with me by being non- or anti-populist. We really have no argument.

Others here seem to have no idea of what the word means. I just don't have the beans to start from zero. The conservative takeover of the university and the media has been pretty successful.

Tim, you annoy the fuck out of me, so don't feel that you're suffering alone.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:04 PM
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And how many people who read and comment on unfogged are working class?

Not me, but there are definitely some. And I would say a somewhat larger group of people engaged in upward mobility, with working class parents, but middle class futures ahead of them.

Definitions and boundaries are much too complicated to discuss, though, and, I think, are too complicated to be useful in modern national politics. Frex, Republicans made good use of the relatively low income figure the Clinton Administration used to define "the rich" in some early policy -- 5 figures, iirc.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:05 PM
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Tim, you annoy the fuck out of me, so don't feel that you're suffering alone.

That's sweet, Emerson. Companionship is always a salve.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:06 PM
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And salve, properly applied, can be a substitute for companionship.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:07 PM
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So anyway, what I've learned from this argument is that "populist" means something completely different to people over 60 than it does to people under 40. Aside from that it seems that everyone agrees on everything.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:08 PM
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Cough.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:09 PM
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Wheeze.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:11 PM
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I'll just be in the corner over here, aging rapidly. Oh, look. Wrinkles.

I think I just broke a hip.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:13 PM
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Up for some shuffleboard, LB? There will be a nurse there in case the exertion fatigues you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:18 PM
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The relationship of the elite to the people, athough of course under a different hat the elite are people too, is one of education, information, advice. This should never be never manipulation or control. The elite do not make policy, nor should they even express an strong opinion on policy in the roles as advisors. The elite do not lead. I repeat, the elite does not lead, in case my grammar was wrong the first time. I try to commenting on policy myself, and I am not even elite. It is not about tax cuts, or Congressional ethics, or about Iraq. It is about democracy. I am not a republican.

Think of an advisor to a President, or a outside union organizer, or a good & functional press to its readership. It is a very grave but often pleasurable responsibility, mixed with the humility, relief, terror & pity that I am not the fucking Decider.

The elite serve, not rule.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:20 PM
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I'm under 40, so do with this what you will, but my understanding of what populism means when you're talking about politics is not "supporting the average person even at the cost of big business", though certainly that is a very possible principle that might underlie one's populism. Whether your policies and principles really do support the average person, and in what way, doesn't control whether your rhetoric and policies are "populist".

My understanding of populism is that it's a matter of choosing which policies to support based on the degree to which they appeal to the interests of the "little guy" (whoever that might be), of emphasizing the aspects of your policies that (you believe) are important to the little guys, of tapping into the passions and worries of the little guys. That is, it's a mode of political action that can be truthful or false, beneficial or harmful. It's mostly about paying attention to and playing to the things that stir the hearts of a broad swath of "ordinary people". I do wish the Democratic party did more of it, more effectively. I also believe that there are structural reasons, as well as ideological reasons, why they don't -- the erosion of unions, a great network of traditionally Democratic populations organized into a handy infrastructure for getting the word out, at the same time that conservative churches became a flourishing, well-organized mouthpiece for the other side, is a big one.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:27 PM
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311: With a broken hip? I think not. Anyone up for canasta?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:27 PM
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Last night I spent hours on this year-old Scott Horton thread on Leo Strauss Emerson is very active, dismissed because he hasn't read all of Strauss's work twenty times, which struck me as a point about credentialism, but never mind. But I mention it because DeLong shows up with questions about Lippmann and Institutional Restraints on democracy. The press has failed Brad, and anyone who reads him knows how upset he is about it.

I don't deny there are dangers in democracy, but I sure no longer have any faith in any sort of institutionalized elitism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:33 PM
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297: I'm ontologically working class no matter how rich I get. That's because all of my ancestors, going back to the Flood, were members of the proletariat.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:36 PM
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Y'all have been doing so well with the trolling and fighting in my absence that I hate to bring this up, but:

I'm not a Democrat.

Honest to god, right now? Anyone who isn't is a fool.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 5:54 PM
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316:
So were your blue collar ancestors building the ark for The Man?


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 6:21 PM
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318: Obviously not, or Adam wouldn't be here. "Going back to the flood" could easily mean "since" the flood; presumably his ancestors were the children of Noah who ended up mucking out the stables rather than making the navigational charts.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 6:25 PM
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Okay, on reading Gonzales's statement I am going to definitively say that the man is not down with the gente, and that Bush playing the race card on his behalf during the nomination hearings shoulda be flat-out trumped by the fact that two of the man's kids are named Jared and Graham. *Are* there any whiter names for boys than those?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 6:31 PM
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Graham, as in the, uh, cracker?


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 6:59 PM
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*Are* there any whiter names for boys than those?

Neville.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:01 PM
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320: Conrad

For a discussion somewhat related to the populism thread within this thread, you may want to check out Zeus Yiamouyiannis's post Is Capitalism Compatible With Democracy?. I think a lot of "economic" populism utlimately comes to grief on this point when it is faced with actual governance and not just "support/getting elected/stirring up the masses". He leads with a quote from a John Dunn article in Daedulus.

This much is clear: while in America, Tom Paine and James Madison both imagined that that a commercial society could coexist happily with a representative republic, others elsewhere, from Filippo Buonarroti and the first Duke of Wellington in the 1830s to the Guild Socialist G.D.H. Cole in the 1920s, were just as certain that the inequalities generated by the market economy were incompatible with a truly democratic republic. (p. 5)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:21 PM
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Zeus Yiamouyiannis

That is SUCH an awesome name.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:25 PM
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317: Well, right now, I of course vote Democratic and agitate for others to vote Democratic, and write letters of support to my Senators (who are both Democrats) and my Representative (likewise), and call Republicans bad names. Because, that's the situation right now.

But I don't register Democratic, and I look forward to the day -- lo, though it may be many years from now -- when I may hope to have a viable alternative to doing all that. You know, when there's a feasible alternative to the Democrats who don't stand for torture and police state and war without end and whatnot. Or, hey, maybe the Democratic party will turn around and start to embrace my politics, but that seems unlikely.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:26 PM
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320: Nigel.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:27 PM
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Okay, on reading Gonzales's statement I am going to definitively say that the man is not down with the gente, and that Bush playing the race card on his behalf during the nomination hearings shoulda be flat-out trumped by the fact that two of the man's kids are named Jared and Graham. *Are* there any whiter names for boys than those?

It's not like there isn't a lengthy tradition of minorities adopting hyperwhite names to cover their ethnicity. I'd rather scorn Gonzales for being a lying sack of shit.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:36 PM
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No fair choosing names that are used in England, although it occurs to me that there they may not only be given to whites anymore.

What about Kyle?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:37 PM
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Ian? Colin? Clive?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:40 PM
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There's more than one Latino named Jared in the world.

More white-bread names than Jared and Graham would include Gavin, Cole, Chase and Hunter.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:42 PM
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Also Travis, and Dylan.

329: Colin Powell? Ian is pretty good, although it seems less so now that the Pirates have a black pitcher named Ian.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 7:44 PM
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I think 313 catches the right distinction here: Populism is a mode of leadership and a method of rhetoric that (I argue) the Democrats need to embrace. It's ludicrous for the Republicans to be eating our populist lunch.

That said, the populist Republican stance on immigration seems like it's going to bite them in the ass (partly because there's a good deal of populist energy on the other side of that debate).

I'll also add that while populism isn't a set of policy prescriptions, some arguments are more amenable to the populist style than others. Heathcare has an obvious populist argument behind it, as does, say, the estate tax.

But if you want to make the case for unrestricted trade among nations, you're pretty much stuck with the technocratic argument - populism fails you there.

Cala, meanwhile, accurately characterizes an aspect of populist argument that troubles her:

LB, I think 'populism', if it is to be distinguished from the merely popular 'popular', has to include making someone The Man who is at fault.

This, however, highlights why I like the populist mode: It reflects fundamental truth. The Man really is at fault, and until we stop being nervous about acknowledging that fact, we're always going to be overly timid.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 8:58 PM
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329: Colin Powell? Ian is pretty good, although it seems less so now that the Pirates have a black pitcher named Ian.

Baseball is a confounding factor, what with Khalil Greene and Reggie Willits.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:03 PM
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Ian? Colin? Clive?

I suspect the number of Jamaicans bearing any of those names is not insignificant.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:03 PM
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Whitey.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:05 PM
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And Howie Kendrick, of course. Can't forget Howie.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:07 PM
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Snark! I just finished watching Bourdain's show about Cleveland, with Ruhlman, and Harvey Pecor. Must have been filmed in the winter.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:09 PM
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Someone told me it wasn't mean, which I appreciate. Sadly, I bet the stuff Bourdain enjoys in Cleveland is almost certain to be like crazy Hungarian boars' head stew and stuff. Am I right?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:12 PM
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Harvey Pecor? Pekar?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:14 PM
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Simon's, a polish deli with a name something like suskowski, and a barbecue place named something Williams. A real old time sausage maker. He and Ruhlman cooked, after going to the indoor farmer's market, which was great and something we don't have in Chicago. And he and Markey Ramone went to the R & R Hall of Fame. And the huge bookstore in the former twinkies factory. Very appreciative.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:17 PM
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Pekar, yes.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:18 PM
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332:Free trade has always been a Marxist and socialist core policy. Sold theoretically on the basis on the need for simultaneous int'l revolution declining profits on capital imperialism etc, a simple message of int'l solidarity of Labour should work pretty well.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:23 PM
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West Side Market? It's fantastic (and there's a falafel stand with the best falafel I've had in the city), but it's not actually a farmer's market -- the people who run the greengrocer stands usually didn't grow the food themselves. (I think most of the meat stands did the butchering and preparation themselves, but I'm sure it's not all of them.) It's more like Eastern Market in DC, which I heard burned down recently. A super fun place to go, though, and the architecture is really lovely.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:24 PM
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Yes, looked like a train station, with a great tower outside, all in variegated brick.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:26 PM
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McManus is awesome sometimes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 9:37 PM
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342: Point taken. But I'm not sure that argument ever had much resonance with the masses.

Along those lines, "Fair Trade" is the modern populist slogan. That slogan, however, doesn't speak to the amount of trade, just the terms of it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:07 PM
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"Fair Trade" is populist? I think of it primarily in connection with the coffee house crowd, which is at least stereotypically the (young, urban, liberal) elite.

Also, politicalfootball, can you point out some of this populist energy on the side of lowering immigration restrictions? 'Round here, as far as I can tell, the only two constituencies in favor of immigration are the (primarily working class) latino minority, and some small section of the elite crowd. My impression was that this was pretty typical -- that the public cuts very strongly anti-immigration.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:04 AM
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347: "Fair Trade" is a populist argument, yes. One that originated with unions, not coffee houses - though it's interesting that this is your perspective. The Democrats have, again and again, allowed Republicans and folks like you to define populist ideas as elitist - as though the denizens of "coffee houses" constitute some high-falutin' interest that's clueless about the problems of the working man.

My point is that "populism" is contained in the structure of the argument, not its actual popularity. Some populist appeals fail to work as populist appeals. (And some highly counterintuitive populist arguments succeed: See "death tax.")

As far as immigration restrictions, absolutely, there is a powerful populist pro-immigration argument. You may not believe this, but you can put 100,000 people on the street protesting immigrant-bashers and waving Mexican flags. That's populism.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 5:39 AM
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Ah, see, again we're running into the difference between "things you can phrase as a populist argument" (which, I would argue, is anything, given clever enough advertising), and "things which are popular amongst the masses."

I didn't say that the denizens of coffee houses were clueless about the problems of the working man. I just said that they were stereotypically not the working man. That's the point, right? If the elite push a policy that does not have broad support, even if they genuinely believe it to be in the best interests of the working classes, then it may still be liberal, or progressive, or whatever, but it's not populist. That's the distinction that we're drawing.

Except I remain not very sure that we are drawing that distinction. I don't see much of a sign that anyone is actually interested in what comes from the population -- it seems to me that the populists of this thread are mainly about selling their arguments from a particular rhetorical direction. (Which is fine, by the way. I'm just pointing out an area of confusion I've been having.)


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:05 AM
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349: There, I think you're running into a distinction between 'stereotypically not the working man' and actually not the working man. Lots of people drink coffee.

Any policy you like is going to be put forward by spokespeople, not by the mass of the populace. The mass of the populace hasn't got a voice. Saying that one spokesperson, attempting to speak for and serve the interests of the 'little guy' is really populist because they're in a pickup truck and wearing a lumberjack plaid shirt, and another isn't because they're a coffee drinking Easterner, doesn't get at a difference between whether their ideas actually do come 'from the working man', only a difference in how well you think they're going to appeal to the working man. And of course, that sort of analysis is very easy to turn into self-fulfilling prophecy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:15 AM
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The working man drinks coffee in a diner or a bar. Everyone knows that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:18 AM
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Further to 350: Now, I'll agree that there really are ideas and policies that are genuinely, organically popular with the working class, and policies that are being sold to the working class using populist rhetoric. Call it 'real populism' versus 'fake populism', with the understanding that that's not the same as 'good policy' versus 'bad policy'. It would be perfectly possible for 'real populism' to produce lousy policy.

All I'm saying is that looking at the class identity and so forth of the spokesman for an idea doesn't tell you if it's a real populist idea or a fake populist idea. Tobaccy-chewing rednecks can sell astroturf policies, and effete New York aristocrats in wheelchairs can carry out genuinely populist programs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:25 AM
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"Confronted with the choice, the American people would choose the policeman's truncheon over the anarchist's bomb."

They don't make politicians like Spiro Agnew any more (or speachwriters like Safire).

Can anyone think of a equivilent left-wing political statement that would push as many buttons as hard as that one does? I'm not trying to troll Emerson, I would love to see a more vital left wing populism, but reading that quote I just can't imagine what would be an equivilent rhetorical position on the left (as I said, tin ear when it comes to political rhetoric)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:11 AM
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There's a lot of resentment of globalization among ordinary working people, and has been for decades.

Populism refers to "policies popular with most people" and / or "policies good for most people". Ideally, it's both. It doesn't rule out leadership or expertise, and there's no requirement that all populist leaders without exception be poor workers or farmers.

The antitheses of populism are rule by experts with no input from the majority of the population, and/or rule which is unpopular with the majority of the population, and/or rule which favors the richest and the elite over the majority of the population.

The "majority of the population" would be all those who have neither high status nor high income nor high net worth.

I grant that there's some confusion in the populist message deriving from anachronistic pictures of the population as mostly factory workers and dirt farmers. Second, a major bottom-half sector is recent immigrants, legal and illegal, and it's uncertain where they fit in the story. (Organized labor today isn't especially anti-immigrant, though many individual workers are). Third, and this has always been a dilemma, are "the people" the median group, or should those at the very bottom be included in "the people"? Populism has tended to be successful-working-class and lower-middle-class.

Nonetheless, "populism" isn't hard to give a definition to which as intelligible as the definitions of any other political tendency.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:24 AM
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I think the idea is that an equivalently button-pushing leftwing statement would strike you as unhinged, because leftwing populism has been completely absent from the discourse for so long. I'm handicapped here, because even though I've been talking up populism in this thread, I'm not a good source of populist rhetoric -- I'm a high income urban intellectual without the common touch.

But think of the possibilities talking about predatory lending practices -- something pitting ordinary citizens, struggling to pay back debts inflated bizarrely beyond the amounts they actually borrowed, against the wealthy investors who get their dividents by sucking ordinary people dry. I can't do the effective rhetoric, but I can see that there are buttons there to be pushed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:26 AM
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I think the idea is that an equivalently button-pushing leftwing statement would strike you as unhinged, because leftwing populism has been completely absent from the discourse for so long.

This seems correct. But I'm aware of the fact that there are various people that attempt that sort of populism in ways that appeal to me, and don't seem to get much cultural traction.

I'm just mulling over the problems of having a populism that's also appealing to elites. The Spiro Agnew statement is powerful precisely because it's divisive and, in that case, I know I'm one of the people being attacked. What I don't know is how much I'm wishing to see a politician who will be willing to attack me for political gain and whether I'm comfortable with that even if it's in pursuit of policy aims I agree with.

There's no reason that there has to be a conflict but, I'm not comfortable assuming away potential conflicts either.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:47 AM
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To go back to a left-populist chestnut, the question is which side are you on? You can pick the side you think is right, regardless of your 'natural' affiliation. FDR pushed policies that weren't in his own class-based interest, and did it with rhetoric that was often hostile to members of his class (I'm not saying that he suffered personal hardship as a result -- just that divisive rhetoric, aimed at people like him on behalf of the 'little guy' didn't make him a hypocrite or make anyone else's head explode.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:52 AM
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which side are you on

Now I have the song stuck in my head.

FDR pushed policies that weren't in his own class-based interest, and did it with rhetoric that was often hostile to members of his class

Can you find examples of FDR using class/culture war rhetoric?

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement. As examples : We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance. We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care. We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it. I have called for personal sacrifice, and I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my budget message I will recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying for today. No person should try, or be allowed to get rich out of the program, and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

That seems progressive without being hostile to elites. In fact at times it seems to borrow the language of noblesse oblige (something that Kennedy also did well).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:01 PM
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I was thinking about this a little bit, and I think that left-populism may be fine, but someone needs to reinvent the vernacular. At some level, that's what Air America was trying to do, but they were ultimately not very successful. The Right, OTOH, has many media figures that are, at least stylistically populist: Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc. Fox News is, it seems to me, pretty self-consciously populist in style. We "have" NPR.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:03 PM
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359 gets it exactly right.

Comity?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:08 PM
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"Malefactors of great wealth": Teddy, the Republican, not FDR. Surprised me.

FDR + "populist rhetoric" gets 728 hits, but no good examples. Anti-FDR people accuse him of populism.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:42 PM
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From the Four Freedoms speech:

A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups. A free nation has the right to look to the leaders of business, of labor and of agriculture to take the lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups but within their own groups. The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble-makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and if that fails, to use the sovereignty of government to save government.

It's not firebreathing, quite, but it's definitely something.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:48 PM
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Oh, this is better, from the First Inaugural Address:

Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Imagine someone talking about Wall Street like that today. They'd commit him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:50 PM
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Some of the junior New Dealers were firebreathers. Sidney Hillman might be an example.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:52 PM
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Imagine someone talking about Wall Street like that today. They'd commit him.

Or suggest he was talking about "the Jews."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:53 PM
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Campaign speech at Madison Square Garden, 31 Oct 1936 (text, scroll down for link to audio):

We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

The audio is worth listening to for his interactions with the crowd (and is also not quite the same as the text).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:21 PM
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The passage quotes in 366 is fantastic but, to split hairs, is that "populist" or is it just a very vehement declaration of being an "outsider who will change how things are done in Washington."

What a fantastic speech, and it does answer my question about a populist pushing buttons as hard as Spiro Agnew did.

"Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!"


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:31 PM
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Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob

That sounds populist to me, don't you think?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:33 PM
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if this be populism, let's make the most of it.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:41 PM
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Yeah, that line defintely caught my attention.

Really I was just splitting hairs, I concede that's a side of FDR's rhetoric with which I wasn't familiar and that fact may prove Emerson's point.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:41 PM
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And Emerson achieves intellectual hegemony over the four people who've read all the way to the bottom of the thread. Yay!!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:44 PM
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Thanks for doing this, LB. One reason I wanted someone else to do this is that what will jump out at you from the old speeches and statements maybe something I would have taken for granted, and been baffled wasn't understood. How's your hip?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:48 PM
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Still broken, but after the discussion in the other thread, I'm considering plastic surgery to get rid of the wrinkles.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:50 PM
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"We can have democracy in this country,
or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
but we can't have both."
Louis D. Brandeis

And from FDR's third State of the Union message:

"In these latter years we have witnessed the domination of government by financial and industrial groups, numerically small but politically dominant in the twelve years that succeeded the World War. The present group of which I speak is indeed numerically small and, while it exercises a large influence and has much to say in the world of business, it does not, I am confident, speak the true sentiments of the less articulate but more important elements that constitute real American business.

In March, 1933, I appealed to the Congress of the United States and to the people of the United States in a new effort to restore power to those to whom it rightfully belonged. The response to that appeal resulted in the writing of a new chapter in the history of popular government. You, the members of the Legislative branch, and I, the Executive, contended for and established a new relationship between Government and people.

What were the terms of that new relationship? They were an appeal from the clamor of many private and selfish interests, yes, an appeal from the clamor of partisan interest, to the ideal of the public interest. Government became the representative and the trustee of the public interest. Our aim was to build upon essentially democratic institutions, seeking all the while the adjustment of burdens, the help of the needy, the protection of the weak, the liberation of the exploited and the genuine protection of the people's property.

It goes without saying that to create such an economic constitutional order, more than a single legislative enactment was called for. We, you in the Congress and I as the Executive, had to build upon a broad base. Now, after thirty-four months of work, we contemplate a fairly rounded whole. We have returned the control of the Federal Government to the City of Washington.

To be sure, in so doing, we have invited battle. We have earned the hatred of entrenched greed. The very nature of the problem that we faced made it necessary to drive some people from power and strictly to regulate others. I made that plain when I took the oath of office in March, 1933. I spoke of the practices of the unscrupulous money-changers who stood indicted in the court of public opinion. I spoke of the rulers of the exchanges of mankind's goods, who failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence. I said that they had admitted their failure and had abdicated.
Abdicated? Yes, in 1933, but now with the passing of danger they forget their damaging admissions and withdraw their abdication.

They seek the restoration of their selfish power. They offer to lead us back round the same old corner into the same old dreary street.

Yes, there are still determined groups that are intent upon that very thing. Rigorously held up to popular examination, their true character presents itself. They steal the livery of great national constitutional ideals to serve discredited special interests. As guardians and trustees for great groups of individual stockholders they wrongfully seek to carry the property and the interests entrusted to them into the arena of partisan politics. They seek-this minority in business and industry--to control and often do control and use for their own purposes legitimate and highly honored business associations; they engage in vast propaganda to spread fear and discord among the people--they would "gang up" against the people's liberties.

The principle that they would instill into government if they succeed in seizing power is well shown by the principles which many of them have instilled into their own affairs: autocracy toward labor, toward stockholders, toward consumers, toward public sentiment. Autocrats in smaller things, they seek autocracy in bigger things. "By their fruits ye shall know them."


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 3:18 PM
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