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Thursday, July 10, 2014

 
Palin the populist

by digby

Right wing populism has a long history in the US and it has very distinctive characteristics which bascically come down to a hostility toward elites, including those in Business, finance and academia combined with a strong strain of xenophobia and nativism. Left wing populism is simpler --- it concentrates its ire toward the financial and business elites. In my Salon piece today I discuss the rise of populism in our current political scene and look to which leaders on both sides best communicate their respective followers' concerns:

We see the two strains of populism springing up in both political parties with more and more energy. On the left the Elizabeth Warren wing is gaining steam. Her rousing cri de guerre from the last campaign — “you didn’t build that” — speaks directly to these middle-class anxieties in the language of common good that left-wing populists like to hear. Indeed, she’s been speaking and writing books about it for more than a decade.


But who’s really speaking for the right on these issues? George Wallace is long gone and Pat Buchanan has been exiled from polite company. Under the yoke of their 1 percent benefactors and the demographic time bomb of a non-white majority, you have Paul Ryan and other Washington GOP players trying to walk the fine line between Wall Street’s needs and the base’s antipathy toward immigrants. Ted Cruz? Not really. He’s an Ivy League lawyer with a gift for demagoguery but he doesn’t really have that common touch you need to be a true populist.

There actually is one right-wing populist speaker out there who has no trouble getting right to the heart of the matter: Sarah Palin. Sure, she’s something of a joke to the mainstream and nobody thinks she’ll ever run for anything again. But her celebrity remains formidable as she uses the modern communications technologies to stay in touch with her followers. And she speaks their language perfectly.

I highlight her big call for impeachment earlier this week as an example:
She hits all the right-wing populist hot spots: government debt, crumbling cities (where the “wrong people” live), a healthcare system that’s “overrun” (by people who don’t deserve to use it) an entire public sector that’s being starved because of our “overly-generous” welfare programs. The “leader” (in scare quotes) is creating unsafe conditions on behalf of the bipartisan elites who can buy their own border security and don’t care about the “Average Americans” like Sarah Palin who are broke and feel like “strangers in their own land” (the one stolen from others and settled by immigrants). If only she added a Buchananesque “you didn’t build that — Jose” it would have been the bizarroworld image of the Elizabeth Warren speech.
She may be such damaged goods that her words won't carry. But if there is someone out there who wants to take up the right wing populist mantle, they could do worse that study her word salad. It's got an air of authenticity that's hard to fake.


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