“It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that Donald J. Trump ran his insurgency presidential campaign against the coordinated opposition of every single powerful institution in the Western world.
The single decisive factor working in Trump’s favor was his ability to appeal to the millions of ‘forgotten’ Americans who felt particularly ill-served by these institutions.
If a populist electoral victory is a signal of democratic robustness, an ensuing failure on the part of a populist leader to implement the agenda he ran on runs the risk of unleashing a profound cynicism — a cynicism of the sort captured by Emma Goldman’s famous remark that if voting mattered, they’d make it illegal.
There is a parallel between Trump and that other great populist triumph, Britain’s vote for Brexit. Three years on, the choice of the British people has been undermined at every level of government, and there is a serious possibility it may end up being nullified entirely. It is a betrayal of democratic good faith which invites cynicism in the democratic process.”
Maybe it is time for another history lesson?
In the late 19th century, the original Populist movement was beaten back and coopted by the Democratic Party, but many of its ideas and energy were scooped up by Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement who created a coalition of rural farmers and urban reformers. In the end, the populist agenda triumphed when it was championed by Wilson and FDR who took the raw rural edge off it and sold it better to the highly educated. Maybe we just need a better candidate and political strategy than reelecting a New York billionaire and moron celebrity television host?
Note: The enemies of populism should reflect upon what the original Populists were about which included immigration restriction, the income tax, collective bargaining, the eight hour day, regulation of railroads, etc. It was a rebellion in rural parts of the South and Midwest against Eastern conservatism driven by mounting economic stress.