Populism By Any Other Name

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Political Theory

Oh boy, a new year and new crap to report!

There seems to be a ground swell (at last according to the MSM) on a little known and less understood political theory of POPULISM.

The term is batted around like there is no tomorrow….but what is it?  Is it creeping socialism?  Or maybe a trip down a road we would not like?  Just what is this new form of political thought?

Let me do the work for you…..please give your Google finger a rest….I am sure that it is overworked because it is easier than reading……

Populism is a political philosophy which focuses on standing up for the rights and positions of the common people as opposed to the elite and the government. Several political movements around the world have promoted populist ideals. When used to describe political rhetoric, an individual or a political party, the term often carries pejorative connotations, and “populism” has become a loaded word to many people.

For the Common Man

The key ideal behind populism is that the common man should have a chance in society and an active role in government. Populist movements generally divide society into “the people” and “the elite,” with individuals who have limited power being considered the people and individuals who have clout being among the elite. The elite typically are wealthy and often use their wealth to influence the political system while accruing more wealth. Populists typically feel that the government protects the interests of the elite, not the needs of the common people, and they want that to change.

In Support of Democracy

People who espouse populism generally support democratic systems and believe that democracy is the best way for the people to play a role in the government. Although they promote the welfare of the common man, populists tend to shy away from socialism and extreme liberalism. Politicians from various political parties or viewpoints can be involved in populism, and politicians might accuse each other of pandering or playing to populism in an attempt to get support and votes.

For the Greatest Good

These sorts of political movements are designed to encourage governments and society in general to work to provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people. This might be achieved through policies and pieces of legislation that support ordinary people. Populist movements, however, often reject policy suggestions such as living-wage mandates, public assistance and government-sponsored healthcare, even though these policies are often designed to help the members of the public who are most in need.

Negative Uses

Some people are fond of using the terms “populist” and “populism” in descriptions of public outcry over political events. People might be said to be “erupting in populist rage” when they lodge complaints about flagrant abuses of power among the elite or when there is backlash against a government pushing through legislation that does little to benefit the lower and middle classes. In this sense, these terms might be pejorative in nature and are often used to suggest that the public is too ignorant or short-sighted to understand what is really taking place.

There you have a concise and yet simple definition that anyone can grasp….well just about anyone.

It seems that populism does not conform to traditional Right/Left paradigm……the Tea Party is said to be a populist movement…..meaning that it is suppose to be all about the rights and the need of the people.  People like Rand Paul have been labeled a “populist” and even Ted Cruz is being seen as such.  It appears that the extreme Right of the GOP is being seen as “populists”.

And then there is the Left version of populism….aka the Occupy Movement….it is all about the need for democracy, true democracy and the work of the common people against the Wall Street elites that are doing as they please without any constraints.  On the Left people like Eliz. Warren and Bernie Sanders are called “populists”…..I guess we could say it is the extreme Left of the Dem. Party.

All eyes have been locked on Hillary Clinton in relation to the 2016 Democratic nomination. However, could 2016 be similar to 2008 when an up-and-coming candidate to Clinton’s left beat her out of the top spot? Supporters of progressive-minded politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, certainly think so. Report from the Washington Post: For […]

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George Wallace was a populist……..the Black Panther Party was a populist movement…..and even Mao’s Cultural Revolution can be seen as populist movements….my point is that to call something a populist movement is just BS……basically, to me, it is nothing more than an anti-intellectual movement that depends on slogans and half ass science as its roots….it is party politics with a new name to avoid being type cast……

Authoritarianism—GOP Style

College of Political Knowledge

Remember back in the day when everything you heard about the now defunct USSR was just how authoritarian they were?  How the people had very little say in the direction of the government and the country.  How if you were a politician and not on board with the current leadership you were eased out…..by eased I mean imprisoned, poisoned or in a tragic car wreck…..remember those days?

Everyone agrees that the USSR was an authoritarian regime and unacceptable…..but just what are the aspects of governing that made it so?  An authoritarian government is the form of government based on the principle of requiring obedience to the authority of one person or a small group of people. Other people must be obedient to the will of the government and they have little or no influence over the decisions made by the government. Authoritarian government involves a “top-down” command structure.

Is that what you were thinking it meant to be an authoritarian government?

Authoritarianism emphasises the rule of the few,it often includes election rigging, political decisions being made by a select group of officials behind closed doors, a bureaucracy that sometimes operates independently of rules,which does not properly supervise elected officials, and fails to serve the concerns of the constituencies they purportedly serve. Authoritarianism also tends to embrace the informal and unregulated exercise of political power, a leadership that is “self-appointed and even if elected cannot be displaced by citizens’ free choice among competitors,” the arbitrary deprivation of civil liberties, and little tolerance for meaningful opposition.  (Thanx to wiki for the help)……..

I have been watching the antics in Washington for many years now and I see a disturbing trend developing…….It is a scary thought but I am beginning to think the GOP is moving toward the authoritarian position…I know you think I am just paranoid….but let me explain why I feel that way and then you decide if I am paranoid or not…….

Let us look at some of the characteristics of authoritarianism…..

Election rigging……the GOP in many states are trying to enforce laws that would make it harder for people to register or even to vote….by making it harder to vote because of ID problems or no transportation and making it harder to register by eliminating certain types of ID or a time limit for getting paper work in…..

Secrecy in decision making……politicians meet behind closed doors to decide what is important for the country….like a debt debate when the country needs jobs…..to decide that the opposition has NO good ideas that can be met with compromise……

Elected officials are not held accountable for their actions or decisions….like breaking the law with a hooker and not being prosecuted or allowed to fondle pages, etc……representatives think they are above the law of the land….

Taking away of civil liberties…like freedom of association….freedom of independent thought……

They see no way to tolerate meaningful opposition….trying to eliminate the opposition by restricting the funds that they are able to access….

And finally, follows a path of their choosing and not one of the need of the people….and the people’s desires are NOT important as retaining power….

I know that many of my GOP acquaintances will tell me how idiotic all that seems and that it can be explained as democracy at work……but as an observer I say…CRAP!  There is NOTHING democratic about the antics of the GOP and its Tea Party handlers……..if this situation is not checked then I can see a day when it will be a one party that is as authoritarian as anything that was found elsewhere……(wink…wink…..you know where I mean)……..

Political Philosophy Vs Political Theory

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Political Philosophy/Political Theory

Oh Geez!  I have this tendency for self-abuse…..especially mental abuse…….this is one of those times…trying to explain the difference between the two approaches to politics could make a person go completely batty……good thing I suffer from brain worms after years of political analysis and explanation….so I should come out of this a bit better than some one else…..we will see…..

Political philosophy begins with the question: what ought to be a person’s relationship to society? The subject seeks the application of ethical concepts to the social sphere and thus deals with the variety of forms of government and social existence that people could live in – and in so doing, it also provides a standard by which to analyze and judge existing institutions and relationships. Although the two are intimately linked by a range of philosophical issues and methods, political philosophy can be distinguished from political science. Political science predominantly deals with existing states of affairs, and insofar as it is possible to be amoral in its descriptions, it seeks a positive analysis of social affairs – for example, constitutional issues, voting behavior, the balance of power, the effect of judicial review, and so forth. Political philosophy generates visions of the good social life: of what ought to be the ruling set of values and institutions that combine men and women together.

And then we have political theory which basically put, is the political orientation of a group or nation..or more simply an ideology or a specific orientation……  and these include, but not limited to……conservatism, progressivism, radicalism, liberal, fascism, socialism………and on and on…..for example conservatism…which means a political or theological orientation advocating the preservation of the best in society and opposing radical changes (Does that sound at all like anything happening today?)…..or centrism, a term you hear more and more…but in a political science thinking it is avoiding the extremes of left and right by taking a moderate position or course of action……..and this goes on and on……

A political philosopher deals with what is best for the country or a society and a political theorist is ONLY concerned with what is best for a specific slice of that society, not the society as a whole and diverse organism but rather a single group or class, if you will.

I realize that I have done little to clear the confusion up….but at least I tried….and that is more than most can say….so sports fans…..what is more important the philosophy or the theory?


College of Political knowledge

Subject: Political Theory/ American History

First of all…that is republicanism (with a small “r”) not to be confused with Republicanism or in the US conservative thinking….is it truly all that?  Is it the best way to govern?  Is it the best for the US?  Did the Founders actually give the system of governance much thought?   Or was it the easiest way to preserve their landholdings and in doing so, guaranteed their personal independence and autonomy?

I have to look at the term through an American filter and in doing so may not totally agree with the observations of Kant or Rousseau…….

A generic definition is that it is ” form of government that is not a monarchy”….anything but……in the beginning republicanism was founded on the premise that political right and personal virtue flowed from the ownership of land…….that an unencumbered title was the primary basis of all social order and individual freedom, but if that title was ever lost then one’s personal identity and and political liberties would also be lost……

Although conceptually separate from democracy, republicanism included the key principles of rule by the consent of the governed and sovereignty of the people. In effect republicanism meant that the kings and aristocracies were not the real rulers, but rather the people as a whole were.   Exactly how the people were to rule was an issue of democracy – republicanism itself did not specify how. In the United States, the solution was the creation of political parties that were popularly based on the votes of the people, and which controlled the government. Many exponents of republicanism, such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were strong promoters of representative democracy.  However, other supporters of republicanism, such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were more distrustful of majority rule and sought a government with more power for elites.

No matter how one slices the history of the Revolution, it’s outcome was that the government would necessarily extend influence over the lives of the people by what we could call “the public authority”…………so from the very beginning American republicanism was that the landed gentry would control all governing machinery…….and NO matter how one tries to deny it…..The US has always been governed by the landed gentry, if you will…….NOTHING has changed in 235 years……and there seems little hope of much change in the next 235 years…….without some sort of intervention(?)…….

Is It Reactionary?

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Political Theory

It all pretty much began back in the days of the 2004 political season with John Edwards appealing to votes on a us against them sort of platform and it has continued through 2008 and 2010 elections….the media has labeled this phenom as populism…..but is it?

The political ideology of populism began in the US in the 1840’s, I believe…….and reached a high point at the beginning of the 20th century…basically it was a revolt against the railroads and banks by the common people in the heartland….a fight against the “robber barons”………

Let us leap forward to the present……look at the populism of today, some of it faux and some real, such issues as the bailouts or the rule by special interests, etc. etc………..the media is billing at as populism when it smacks of reactionary to me……reactionary will seldom be used because it has a bad rep from the days of hunting commies behind every door…you know kinda like the Tea Party of today…….

Reactionary is defined as…….relating to, marked by, or favoring reaction; especially : ultraconservative in politics, as according to Webster’s…..and since populism is a reaction to a specific issue….I will say that it is reactionary…..to me it is also a description of pragmatism……reacting to an issue and taking the most simple solution…….by simple I am referring to the most advantageous to have it enacted…..

Populism was a reaction to a political problem…….and populism was a pragmatic approach to the problem…ergo it was reactionary……reactionary then, reactionary now…..seldom is it about well thought out solutions but rather a reaction….a real solution would be one that is based on knowledge not one based on numbers or stats or emotional tantrums….but then that is what we Americans are noted for…..reaction…seldom a well thought out response……

Why Bureaucracy?

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Political Theory/Political Administration

This is a continuation of a discussion that one of my most avid readers, Quin of Quintessential Havoc (go to blogroll to get to his site)……we have discussed the evils of the heavy bureaucracy that is prevalent in democracies…..but I want to talk about the bureaucracy on the local or state level this time…..

I will talk about my state…Mississippi……(thanx for all the sympathy cards)……..the state has 82 counties….and in some cases the county seats are less than 25 miles apart….the counties were created around land ownership, in most cases or were created in the days of the horse and buggy as the only mode of transportation….those days are gone and so are the days of the necessity for so many different jurisdictions…..

The capital city of Jackson and its suburbs are located in 3 counties…..the Coast, which is about 26 miles long, has three repeated county seats…..Hattiesburg, locate between Coast and the Capital, and its suburbs cover 2 counties, maybe three……my point is, if the state is truly wanting to saving money it is time for some realistic consolidation…..eliminate all the duplication….K.I.S.S. and consolidation is the simplest solution…..

All that is a worthless waste of resources just to keep the “good ol boy” system in place….states are struggling to save money and balance their budgets and still offer the services that the people need….but instead of looking at reality they attempt all sorts of revenue generating schemes that in the long run harm the people that they say they are trying to help…..

Elected officials need to cease all this bantering and pseudo-fixes to the administration of government and look for real solutions….no matter if they are popular or not……eventually a real statesman will appear and do what is necessary….until then…..budgets will be crap and the people will suffer while the politicians keep lying and cheating the people out of their future…….sorry to be a downer……but we need to face reality and stop sticking our heads in the sane and exposing our butts to the politicians….they WILL take advantage……

Another good plan for the people’s money…..where I live the local courthouse decided to build a new parking garage….they tore up an existing parking lot and when the garage was built they gain about 3 new parking spaces…..but it was imperative that it be built…….the old parking lot was perfectly good but they had to have a garage and the couple extra parking spots cost about $1 million each…..not bad if you are a contractor, huh?  God I love this stuff!

Side Note:

One appointment in a memo announcing White House staffing changes sounds like something from a future Harvard Kennedy School case study of what went wrong: Emmett Beliveau was appointed Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the Chief of Staff.  God, I love this stuff…it just keeps getting better and better……

Is The Future That Of Corporatism?

This is a question that I had been asking myself for years because of the influence that corporations are exerting on the government….my question was sort of answered last week when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of limitless funds from corporations in the path of ultimate buying of the government…..

As a student of political philosophy the idea of corporatism has interested me for a long time now…but first let us look at corporatism to see if it would apply in this case…..originally it referred to a system where the corporations remained in private hands but did the bidding of the government…much like that of Italy in the 1930’s under fascism……but in today’s world that definition needs a bit of tweaking to make it more modern….

Today’s corporations have entered into the world of government by influencing the making of laws through the bribery of elected officials, but it is legal bribery, in the forms of campaign donations and such…..they are now writing legislation and giving it to their hired minions in government to be passed into law…..the corporations have been quietly for years taking over the reins of government, with elected officials on their payrolls and in doing so they are shaping the life of the polity…..they do this by letting the politicians on their rolls pass the laws and then tell the electorate what is and how it benefits them….and they believe it!

As I have said, this situation has been developing for years mainly through the use of political action committees (PAC) and now with the newest ruling by the Supreme Court those institutions may not be needed as much as they are today….

These corporations will in effect outright buy their political allies and not have to worry about the inconvenience of the PACs……

A dismal future approaches……the Left has been screaming about this day for decades and now their predictions do not seem so extreme……look for politicians to start wear corporate sponsorship patches like those in NASCAR….

If this holds up then the Dems can kiss their asses good-bye….the GOP will be the only form of political organization left…though there could be some promise for those conservative democrats….many of those already are in the pockets of corporations so they could be safe for awhile….

It is not too late but the door of opportunity to save American democracy is closing slowly…..will YOU let the system that you are so damn proud of die this horrible death…or will you stand up and do something about this political tsunami?

What Is With Representative Democracy?

Professor’s Classroom

Subject:  Political Theory

Paper #2

A good question…..some will say nothing and yet others will say everything…..after many years of watching and participating in the political process of this country I have come to believe the latter….I have been a radical that believes that the people are the political power and have been an advocate of participatory democracy for all those years….but yet there will be those that say the our present form of democracy is the best…that representative democracy is the best way for the country to behave…..I will disagree.

Is there a good reason that I feel this way?  Yep and a big one……the present system eliminates the people from the process with the exception of elections every so often…all other decisions are made for us…whether we think they are a good idea or not….it is all about what the ruling elites want, not what the people want…..

People are starting to question the validity of the representative democracy for many reason, but the most common are:

1–too much is expected of the process

2–it completely fails to rev the people up or to generate much interest in the process

3–the people gravitate to individuals not issues

4–fails to find solutions to complex problems and issues

Since the days of our Civics classes, which are a thing of the past, we have been taught that the answers to ALL of life’s problems can be fixed by our representatives, whether it be in Washington or at the local level……but there is a bigger truth that is somehow lost in the shuffle and that is that the representative body is too weak to solve the massive problems facing the people…..if an example is needed then just look at the whole recent debate of health reform (at least at the time of this writing)……why would I say this?……the players in the representative game are pre-occupied with the longevity in Washington and everything else is just a bothersome task that has to be attempted……the masses are nothing but a pack that needs to be manipulated….

The representatives seem to be trying less and less to involve the people in the decisions that concern them…..the people are nothing more than a consumer of the political rhetoric that is uttered daily….there is NO more face to face discussion between the pols and the people, instead there is the one way media….that means that the media reports on one aspect and all else matters not……the media has gained so much influence that it leads to a massive manipulation by the elites and because of that the original idea of the Founders is only a vague memory in a historian’s head…..

The Founding Fathers, back in the day, did not want the masses involved in the national discourse….but they thought that a face to face with the reps back home would make the running of the country much easier and more streamline…..originally it probably was, because in the communities everyone knew everyone else…..but today that is NO longer possible….the idea of a face to face debate with the rep is just a pipe dream from the past….

For many many years the representative form of democracy has been failing the people……yet those same people allow it to continue…..why?

The answer is very simple…..Americans allow the rep form of government to continue because they are too passive and badly misinformed…just an example of what I just said…..in a recent survey of self-described Repubs, 63% said that Obama is a socialist….that right there illustrates the completeness of American ignorance…..Americans have a very weak commitment to educate themselves on political matters, they prefer to rely on slogans, sound bites and lies to make the political decsisions….

The champions of Rep dem point to the need for an “educated elite” as the tools of governance…….Rep government is “by the people” but it rests on the wide shoulders of the elite to make it so…..

Is there another way of governance?  For me there is….I prefer what is known as participatory democracy, where the decision are made by the people…..but sadly it will NEVER come to fruit for the very reasons I outlined above……why?   Well as I see it…the masses, for lack of a better word, are at times too intolerant, nationalistic, anti- intellectual, alienated, hateful and violent….issues that would make good governance a nightmare….

So for now we are saddled with the representative form of democracy…the people trust their reps to govern as they intend, which is naive at best….just look at health reform…the majority wants reform but a few ruling elites have decided that it is not to be….and in turn the people get in line and accept the lies as truth……a pathetic ignorance……

There is so many facets to this debate that it would be virtually impossible to summarize it in a 1000 words or less…..I hope that a little more understanding has been had by my readers……..

Next watch for Part 3 of this series entitled Bureaucracy:  Management by paperwork.

Will Conservatism Make A Comeback?

With all the shenanigans this past summer and the economy’s slow pace to recovery…the country seems to be turning away form change and embracing conservative ideas….a recent Gallup Poll shows that 45% of Americans say they a conservative, 36% moderate and 20% liberal…so does this mean that the US is becoming more conservative?  If you want it to…then by all means cheer…but the Gallup is the ONLY poll that shows conservatives in the lead…..all others show that Americans identify themselves as moderate, then conservative and then liberal.

Writing about this subject E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post:

It’s important to note that there is a debate over what these ideological labels actually mean to voters. And polls that give respondents the chance of calling themselves “progressive” produce a substantially larger number on the left end of the spectrum, since many who won’t pick the “liberal” label do call themselves “progressive.” A study earlier this year by the Center for American Progress found that when progressive and libertarian were offered as additional options, the country was split almost exactly in half between left and right.

To answer the question…..will conservatism make a comeback?……it never really was gone…it has been replaced with paleo-conservatism…real conservatism is always alive and well…it is just not in power right now….

When a party that calls itself conservative tries to eliminate all others wothout the “proper” set of “values”….is a dying party….if they cannot tolerate dissenting members then the party is doomed….just look at a lot of the “left” parties of the 1900’s…split after split after split until there was nothing left to make it as viable party.

Could the election in NY 23rd be a precursor to 2010?  Will true conservatives have to run against paleo-conservatives in a third party?  I do not see where there is much choice we either crap on real issues and vote solely on values or we just stay home….something Americans are famous for on off year elections…..

This could be the beginning of TAPS for an old party of conservatives….a once respected party….but now a much laughed at party….sad…it need not die like this…it deserves better…..

Note:  Over the weekend, the GOP candidate in NY’s 23rd has bowed out of the race leaving the neo-con to face the Dem…..did she do this for the good of the Party or was she coerced?

The Problem With Conservatives

As I have stated many times, I have been playing the political game for 40+ years and have seen and heard much.  I have always tried to be respectfully of others opinions, but recently that becomes harder and harder as the political hatred goes deeper.  As long as a person truly believes their political position is important but nowadays it is not based on fact just simple hatred of the other side.  This is why there is very little civil debate going on in politics anymore.

I guess that one would say that I am a liberal or possibly a Progressive…I let others pick the title for they will anyway.  I think that conservatism has a very important place at the political table, but in recent decades that position becomes very clouded for me….why?….because it is racked with contradictions.

Let me explain my thoughts.

First, a strong national defense–this one I do not have a problem with….but when it takes money that is needed for American citizens …I will bitch.  And IMO fighting useless wars is not national defense but rather a form of expansionism.  But there are “good” wars, if any war can be good.

Second, a small limited national government….a grand idea but…….but they champion intrusions into personal liberties like abortion, same sex marriage, marijuana, etc.  In other words they try to legislate morality and that is a big intrusion.  Conservs want the individual to be responsible, but does not want them to have a choice in the own lives.

Third, conservs dislike deficit spending, always wanting a balanced budget buy continually push for increases in spending for the military and unnecessary wars.

Fourth, conservs detest people who they say are parasites on the society for taking welfare, yet champion those who scam and speculate….these people do not create anything but risk and crashes in the markets.

Fifth, conservs stand on the Constitution to the point of wanting everyone to take oaths to support it, yet they detest the strict adherence of the Bill of Rights, they say such a thing only weakens our national security.

These are only a few of the things that I find contradictory within the conservative movement….I have written that there needs to be a liberal wing of the GOP (read more in my page, “Liberal Republican”) the party would then be more balanced.  But since the early 90’s the party was hijacked by the extreme Right and in doing so they are destroying the party slowly but surely.

The GOP has no political philosophy other than tax cuts, a throw back from Laffer and Reagan….saying NO is not a philosophy and throwing vague concepts around is NOT a plan.  There seems to be NO discipline  and with none there is NO leadership.  Without leadership there will be NO party.