When "populist" becomes a slur

We are told that populists employ inflammatory slogans and crude appeals, but how exactly do they violate what has become the new normal within the establishment, whether it be politicians and pundits or the Big Media? Rank partisanship, rabble-rousing, incendiary language, and opportunism—it is all so ubiquitous today that serious, dispassionate public discussion has become virtually impossible. It is increasingly hard to tell so-called “reporting” apart from political activism. The mainstream media, acting like a palace guard for the regime, give favorable attention to regime favorites and ignore or attack people who violate the prescribed orthodoxy. Consider CNN and The Washington Post, which patrol and protect the left flank. As for the Republicrat duopoly, it shows, especially during political campaigns, that it thinks the electorate is made up of illiterates, distinguished only by geography and red or blue state impulses. The regime assumes that the voters are easily moved by appeals to their most primitive instincts and fears.

And so, one asks, what is that makes populism so sinister? The ugliest and most typical feature of populism is, we are told, its paranoid style. It blames what is wrong on scapegoats. Yet we see in the establishment a zeal for blaming society’s ills on dark forces. These include “sexists,” “racists,” “xenophobes,” “homophobes,” and, of course, “deplorables.” After 9/11, the ubiquitous “terrorists” kept the national security state humming and justified interventions abroad. Now there is Russia. Though having a GNP about the same as Italy’s, Russia is in contention for being the greatest threat to America. It even serves as the establishment’s scapegoat for losing the 2016 election. The paranoid style could hardly be more integral to the regime.

It should be evident, then, that the American regime exhibits in abundance the characteristics it attributes to populists. It is financially irresponsible. It makes promises it cannot keep. It spreads deceptive myths. It has a shortsighted and reckless foreign policy agenda. It undermines civil liberties. It employs simplistic demagoguery and cheapens public debate. It plays upon popular fears and anxieties. It singles out groups and individuals for blame.