Over at Amerika, Brett Stevens, commenting on an article on populism in Foreign Affairs, articulates a neat, crystal clear definition of the term:
…populism recognizes the nature of power, which is to use institutions to limit the organic nation and parasitize it for the benefit of international elites and home-grown toadies.
It is “populist” only in that it is meta-democracy, or a popular sentiment created outside the controlled confines of courts, voting and public discourse. It is a cultural wave pushing back against how politics frames the narrative and artificially limits choices based on the pretense of people in groups.
Where conservatives think we can import people from the third world, “educate” them in our ways and have them live among us, the Alt Right realizes that diversity as a whole fails. Where Nazis single out African-Americans and Jews, the Alt Right points out that every group acts in its own self-interest alone, and in the Machiavellian realpolitik and so ideas like “we are all one” and diversity can never work no matter what groups are involved.
Populists also recognize the nation as an organic entity, or a people. This means that it only lasts so long as its founding group remains unmixed and with its traditions intact. To a populist, social standards must be enforced by culture, and having government step in the way makes government into a parasitic and corrupting force.
Since the adoption of liberalism in the West, a process that took over a thousand years, we have become materialistic or focused on material goals instead of doing what is right. That includes deference to institutions like law and politics, a facilitative society that aims at empowering individual choice over commonality of purpose, and the mentality that whatever is profitable, popular or socially trending is more important that doing what is good, beautiful and true according to the order of nature.
The pushback began once it became clear that Leftists had buried our society in so many rules and precedents that any action except moar Leftism was demonized, ostracized and made politically incorrect…
It is important to define the term as precisely as possible, because its use and abuse is one of the liberal elite’s favorite rhetorical weapons in the culture wars.
The most Orwellian version of this exercise claims that populism necessarily leads to Latin-American-style authoritarianism.
A few recent examples:
“How to be a poulist,” by Moises Naim for The Atlantic
“Insult, provoke, repeat: how Donald Trump became America’s Hugo Chávez,” by Rory Carroll for The Guardian.
“Populism: The new enemy of democracy,” by Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa for El Pais.
“What Trump has in common with Hugo Chavez,” by Andres Oppenheimer for The Miami Herald.
“Donald Trump is no Hugo Chavez. He is more like Nicolas Maduro,” by Francisco Toro for The Washington Post.
“Don’t cry for me, America: Forget the wall. Donald Trump’s appeal is textbook Latin American populism,” by Enrique Krauze for Slate.
Beware, liberal bien-pensants say, of leaders who appeal to the deepest, gut-level political instincts of the common folk, pitting them against an oppressive, corrupt, establishment-entrenched elite: that’s exactly what the likes of Hugo Chávez did in Venezuela… and look how their common folk ended up!
The outrageous fallacy, of course, resides in the fact that the deepest, gut-level political instincts of a people are as good as a people’s culture. Which in turn is an emergent, path-dependent property of those people’s idiosyncratic matrix of predispositions, beliefs, behaviors, temperaments and aptitudes with which they are endowed by their genes.
As much as Marxist class-warfare demagoguery as championed by the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez use populist discourse to pit the common guy against the establishment, its inherent leftism can only resonate in the hearts and minds of mestizos that not only never really assimilated into Western culture in any significant sense, but also lost touch with their ancestral, native American heritage.
Mestizo culture, if it can be called that, is an incoherent melange. A confusing patchwork born of the delusional attempt to embrace “diversity as strength” at the core of Latin American national projects. Most of them, to add insult to injury, suffused with the feverish dream of a supranational Patria Grande.
This essential lack of cultural substance of the Latin American mestizo is, of course, the main reason why most of them, even in 21st-century Latin America, live in a state that cannot be characterized as anything but plain savagery.
Actually, perhaps it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that in some respects, life in the barrios and favelas of Latin American megalopolises is today more savage than it was for their jungle-dwelling ancestors.
Can anyone in their right minds expect anything else than leftism, the anti-civilizational ideology par-excellence, to become hegemonic among a fundamentally savage people?
Can anyone in their right minds even insinuate that the deepest, gut-level political instincts of working class Americans and Europeans are in any way as susceptible to leftism as the mostly mestizo common folk in Latin America are?
Also, as Stevens points out elsewhere:
[Rightist] societies are neither individualist nor collectivist, but organic. They are people cooperating at a level of such maturity that each person finds a role they can serve and stays there. If that’s king, great; if it’s peasant, ditto.
Crass attempts to impose the notion of individual autonomy at the core of classical liberalism on uncultured peoples like those of Latin America, inevitably result in full-blown collectivist regimes that appeal to the savage impulses of the mestizo.
Given the actual state of affairs in the first world, the liberal notion of individual autonomy has seemingly proven to also exert a corroding influence on the spiritual values of Western culture that gave birth to it in the first place.
This led to the exacerbated, atomized, materialist individualism that Stevens describes. And ultimately, this seems to also be devolving into full-blown collectivism, albeit in form more akin to A Brave New World than 1984.
But if first-world liberals have their way and their open-border policies prevail, they will ultimately face a rude awakening.
When pervasive price controls and rampant nationalization of industry become the norm, the soma will run out, just like Venezuelans ran out of toilet paper, and they will realize they are living under the more 1984-ish version of collectivism that prevails in Latin America.
And it will be too late to do anything about it.