Thursday, November 29, 2018

How to Beat Right Wing Populism

Two interesting recommendations here. In the UK Guardian, Paul Mason emphasizes the role of emotion, inspiration and economic hope.
"The first lesson...for liberal centrism, if it wishes to survive, is that it needs an emotional narrative with an inspirational core offer. And that core offer has to be economic hope: there is nothing that says the far left has to own policies of fiscal expansion, redistribution, state aid and high wages. It’s just that the neoliberal economic textbook says they can’t be done. The “fear of the future” reported in much qualitative research on supporters of the nationalist right is, for many of them, rational. People are reacting as if scared, depressed and angry because the world created by precarious employment, poor housing and rising inequality is scary, depressing and annoying.
If you can’t answer the question: “How does life get rapidly better for me and my family?”, no amount of communicative power will help. Secondly, the centre has to make a strategic choice: to side with the left against the right. All discussions of populism that avoid that conclusion are worthless."
Amen. On a different tack, Joan Williams on the Atlantic site focuses on the various ways educated and affluent whites tend to look down on the white working class. She includes a tendency to pooh-pooh the whole idea of economic anxiety as a driver of reactionary populism ("it's just racism") and a tendency to see any and all opposition to open borders as yet more racism.
She concludes her piece with a challenge to white elites. I particularly like the last line.
"With each trump-fueled outrage, people on Twitter ask whether I’m finally ready to admit that the white working class is simply racist. What my Twitter friends don’t seem to recognize is their own privilege. If elites cling to the idea that working-class whites are perpetrators of inequality, rather than both perpetrators and victims, perhaps it’s because they want to believe that they are where they are because they’ve worked hard and they’re the smartest people around. Once you start a conversation about class, elite white people have to admit they have not only racial privilege but class privilege, too.
Acknowledging this also requires elites to cede yet another advantage: the extent to which they have controlled Democrats’ priorities. Political scientists have documented the party’s shift over the past 50 years from a coalition focused on blue-collar issues to one dominated by environmentalism and other issues elites cherish.
I’m one of those activists; environmentalism and concerns related to gender, race, and sexuality define my scholarship and my identity. But the working class has been asked to endure a lot of economic pain while Democrats focus on other problems. It’s time to listen up. The only effective antidote to a populism interlaced with racism is a populism that isn’t."
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Donald Trump likes to pit elite and non-elite white people against each other. Why do white liberals play into his trap?

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