Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Neo-Populists

Ira Stoll, writing in the Wall Street Journal, worries that the state of the economy "may trigger a new outbreak of anti-Semitism."

President Bill Clinton's secretary of labor, Robert Reich, warns that, "History shows how effective demagogic ravings can be when a public is stressed economically." Reich says Jews, along with gays and blacks, could become victims of populist rage.

I think not. Stoll and Reich are focused on yesterday's brand of populism, one formulated when Jews, gays, and blacks stood outside the political power structure. Now that the halls of power contain a black President, Jewish Presidential advisors, and gay Congressmen, it's hard to imagine that these powerful people would turn their power into rage against the groups they represent.

No, populism has changed; or rather its target has. Populists can no longer count on racist or religious attacks to gain political advantage. If a populist wants to get anywhere today, he must phrase his attack in terms of income and occupation. Only then can he can sound like a social progressive and not a social reactionary.

That done, his field of attack is wide open.

1 comment:

The Aardvark said...


It does seem that theologically conservative Christians are still ready targets.