And what can be done about it?
Although Trump is the most obvious noisemaker, today’s political arena is driven by populism. Populists believe in their own virtue—and that they are being mistreated by a small circle of elites. Added to that belief is the view that “if we work together, we can overthrow those elites.”
But not just the above, a large number of issues keep surfacing, making understanding the noise more difficult. For example, there’s no doubt that Hilary Clinton is the recipient of latent sexism and wounded male (the old white men) prerogatives. In a recent phone conversation, my brother (79 years old) commented that he didn’t know what to do about the election. He wouldn’t vote for Trump, but couldn’t vote for “a woman.” I decided, based on years of experience, not to go there. I just grunted. My brother is reflective of the toxic triad of populism: anti-pluralism (“a woman”?), denial of complexity (“all you need to do is. . . “), and a crooked version of representation (“all politicians are liars”).
So how can we understand all this?
Although there are a lot of confusing issues built into today’s political confusion, Andres Velasco, former finance minister of Chile and now at Columbia, summarizes the most informative insight this history/political science major has picked up on for some time.
Velasco believes that neither bad economics, nor taxation (or jobs or income inequality) drives populism. Instead, he argues that populism today—and historically—is about representation: who gets to speak for the people and how.
Abraham Lincoln’s comment...