The former president's uniquely rabid and bombastic style of populism harkens back to an old American tradition of outlaw-hucksterism
A thoughtful description of how a gangster occasionally gains mass appeal. Right up until Texas Rangers gunned down Bonnie & Clyde, their daredevil antics offered a diversion from economic depression and the hero-free world of everyday folks. In reality, for B&C as well as Trump & Co., they were breaking rules fundamental to society, not merely pious norms. Others did the heavy lifting of electrification of the Lone Star State (Roosevelt & LBJ) and, later, making a Texas university one of the best venues for classical studies and reflection on what makes for real leaders - classical virtues of courage, wisdom, temperance and a genuine interest in justice. Today, little Teddy Cruz delights in the prospect of pardoning gangster Trump, the Guv in battering vulnerable women & kids, and an historic majority of Lone State voters so blinded by the kind of prejudice that enables truly unworthy men. Ann Richards, where art thou?
Thanks for "indigenous American berserk" reference. It's always good to be able to put a name to a face.
I believe that a fundamental and mostly unrecognized reality of Presidential politics is that it has become, first and foremost, entertainment. When I see pundits making historical comparisons, which is happening less and less, I know the analysis is close to useless. If you want to analyze Presidential politics, analyze the Yankees vs the Red Sox or Duke vs. North Carolina.
Damon, I think I always struggle with the amount of agency you give to the many members of this insane tribe of humans.
Forgive the descriptive nature of the following sentence.
In my mind, they are pre pubescent boys (for the most part) with penises they are unable to control. There is little to ANY thought among them other than scratching an itch that they have never fully come to understand. IMHO, Even the Reaganites were mindlessly following whatever ape was displaying the behavior they believed was showing “manliness”. Look no further than Rich Lowry and his insane comment about Sarah Palin. They have very rarely shown anything other than sycophantic pandering fools trying to be one of the cool kids.
They have always been pathetic.
If you by snakeoil, be ready for the illness or death it may visit upon you. This is an astute analysis of our Trump problem. We all need to get involved, fight hard, and realize what is truly at stake. I wish every Republican had to read a statement about life under authoritarianism before they cast a ballot. I think most have no clear idea of just how bad it gets. I spent time in the Soviet Union and have studied Russia and Eastern Europe for over forty years. And I am very familiar with the Third Reich. Now Putin is openly endorsing Trump. I remember when I was angry at Reagan for saying all Russians were atheists and could not be trusted. That was a demonstrably false statement. But in some ways he was right. In an authoritarian state, you follow the leader’s positions or there are consequences. Now is not the time to sit back and feel morally superior to Republicans in the House. If Trump wins and does as he says he will do, all he’ll will truly break loose. China and Russia will be picking at the leftovers like vultures. Already we are ignoring serious warning signs about Russian Sabre rattling in Europe. Lithuania and Poland have CLOSED half their border crossings with more on the line as Russia takes up residence through the Corridor. Moldova is worried. Romania is angry about drone pieces falling on their territory. Hungary is run by a virtual despot, and Belarus is effectively a Russian satellite. Poland is now getting very fretful. They should be. Putin has made his intentions crystal clear. Ukraine is not a war in some minor country. This is Europe. These are our Allies. I have to be an alarmist because too many people in this country assume everything will work out in the next election, or even if Trump is elected, it won’t really be so bad. Guess again. For those who say there is nothing they can do about the political situation, I don’t believe it. This is your country. Find a way to save it. Get out the vote at the very least!
I think the reason DeSantis is failing stems from his inability to get cozy with the customers when he tries to sell the snake oil. You have to be likable or the folks won’t listen. You have to shake hands or tell jokes. DeSantis is a failure at the interpersonal stuff.
Great piece, Damon. So many good lines, I had a hell of a time deciding which one to pull out for my retweet of the article. Enjoy the weekend, good sir!
An interesting read, thanks. To my mind, certain strands of populism––including admiration of outlaw heroes–– is rooted in a inevitable and sometimes legitimate democratic sentiment. If your society boasts that there are no inherited classes or castes, and yet you realize the rich people with power have given themselves unearned advantages (because they could), you are going to cheer when someone manages to score a win over them. It's why there were outlaw hero legends in among Latinos of early Texas borderlands, the "badman" hero of Black tradition, etc.
In the Reagan era, Republicans drew on his charisma to channel the feelings of working class people and small business owners that someone or something was cheating them out of their due. The GOP proposition was that shrinking government and taxes would give them prosperity and freedom. But that bargain failed, mostly by design, in my opinion. Reaganomics (and globalization) brought stagnant wages, weak unions, new strains on families (requiring two incomes), and much greater income inequality despite increases in US productivity.
A lot of us on thought that the failure of that economic bargain would mean a boost for the left. But we were mistaken. A big portion of the electorate does in fact feel cheated by establishment Republicans (hence all the Ivy League credentialed GOP senators pretending to hate universities and scientists). But they hate Democrats even more. There is a rough justice to it, since the neoliberal economics that put them on the margins was a bipartisan project. But it has brought us to this dire place, because Trump's lawlessness and vulgarity have made him a genuine outlaw hero for the millions who feel suckered out of the Reagan-Clinton promise that they would get to share the wealth and dignity of being an American.
Great piece. “Antinomian Hucksterism” is the perfect short phrase for this strange combo of superficial and thoughtless religiosity with hyena-like scrabbling for junky mini-profits. Cockroach capitalism combined with disreputable sanctimony.
I think Iraq and Afghanistan explains Trumps rise way more than people give it credit, which is sort of ironic, it was the left that opposed those wars, but it fell into populism politically because it was almost undeniable that beyond the horror of war itself, there was so much money spent on something that hurt our own people. Damon, I just think you rarely acknowledge the fault our institutions have in this Trump mess.