As of now, there are 18 Democrats running for the primaries in the 2020 election. Furthermore, Bill Weld has announced that he will challenge Trump in 2020. Although it’s early, it appears that the big candidates for the election are Donald Trump for the Republicans and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats. Both Trump and Sanders have been labeled as “radical” and “anti-establishment” by many in the “establishment”. The establishment, which, is dying. The old politics of neoliberalism and neoconservatism are being replaced by a new generation. This generation is embracing a new ideology-populism. This is happening on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
Jack Parkos | United States
Americans believe a lot about the political parties in America; that the right supports gun rights and the left does not, that conservatives support small government and liberals big government, for examples. We also hear that progressives stand for the working and middle class while the right is elitist. However, it’s not as easy as that to explain.
Progressives: Not for the Common Man
Do progressives really support the working class? It may appear so, as they boast with other populists about supporting the common man. Their policies, on the other hand, do not always represent this. Free healthcare and college may seem to be for the common person until he or she realizes that these policies only raise taxes and prices, which overwhelmingly hurts the middle class.
Furthermore, this break from expectation is evident in immigration policy. When figures on the right criticize illegal immigration, many progressives respond by saying how it brings cheap labor. But this directly hurts the blue collar worker. During his campaign, Trump made it a key point in his election that these policies hurt African-Americans, Hispanics, and the working class as a whole. Why don’t the so-called pro-working class left agree? It is harder for the uneducated to find work if illegal immigrants who work for less than minimum wage come into the country. It thus would appear logical for progressives to support stronger border security.
In fact, this logic used to hold true in the Democratic Party, which used to support strong borders. In a State of the Union address, Bill Clinton clearly stated the following:
“We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”
The party position has changed drastically in recent years. During this time, the party became more focused on social equality.
Progressive hypocrisy also applies to the movement’s general opinions towards Apple. The massive tech company has seemingly taken over society, but Apple’s manufacturing plants in China have some of the poorest conditions in the world. The wages are terrible, but you don’t hear progressive outrage to boycott Apple. Instead, many will boycott Chik-Fil-A because its owners believe in traditional marriage.
There’s a reason more progressives aren’t boycotting Apple: the company has secured their futures. Tucker Carlson compares it to buying indulgences. Apple can commit their sins, but won’t face punishment because of their liberal CEO and board members. Nobody is mad that Facebooks spies on us and collects data because Mark Zuckerberg is not a fan of Trump and bans right-wing pages.
Many progressives often criticize libertarians for being only for “the rich.” Given this was true, why do the 1% vote Democratic or Republican? Libertarians don’t want to tax the middle class out of oblivion. Libertarians don’t want to harm small businesses with regulations they do not have the ability to follow. Furthermore, they never advocate for taxing the people who pay salaries for workers. The major parties, particularly not the progressive left, simply do not profess these beneficial policies.
The left cares little about the middle class, working class, or even the upper-middle class. Rather, they often are advocating for a utopia of government overreach that will hurt the common man.
Ryan Lau | @agorisms
In American politics, we often see the switch between populism and elitism. In the 1890s, for example, the People’s Party took the nation by storm. Many of their policies, from the direct election of senators to a shorter workweek, eventually went into effect.
Not long after, Woodrow Wilson came into office. At this point, the pendulum of politics swung toward elitism, with resegregation and Wilson’s own attitude of superiority following WWI taking a hold. But of course, what swings in one direction must come back.
The McCarthy era saw a quick snap back to populism, though this time, it was of the right wing. Presidents Johnson and Nixon followed suit. A few decades later, the focus shifted back to the elite in the Bush/Clinton era. Now, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have reignited the populist flares of both sides. Like left and right, populism and elitism run, always opposed and never in control for too long. But do either of them have any merits?
Elitism: The Ultimate Gamble
A system that practices elitism has a fairly small number of people making most of the decisions. In a sense, it suggests that people are not properly equipped to decide many things for themselves. Instead, those who are most qualified and specialized should make more important decisions. For example, an elitist is more likely to support the appointment, rather than election, of senators. They believe in reduced importance and role of the people.
Without a doubt, elitism opens itself up to a number of problems. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that a monarch in elitist country X makes most or all of the policy decisions. The people have little to no power and can’t vote for a new leader if they don’t like this one.
Three possibilities occur here. First, the leader may, as an expert, do a good job fulfilling the needs of the populace without harming them. Second, he or she may do a poor job in doing so. Third, it is possible (and even likely) that some combination of these previous two outcomes happens.
The Benign Elitist
In the first situation, the leader of country X knows what is best for all of his or her people, and makes decisions that make them happy. Yet such a feat would require a superhuman ability to please. The simple fact of the matter is that no leader can adequately know what is truly best for everyone. The second he or she makes a decision that helps most people, others may see harms.
There are far too many people in any country to make them all happy. Thus, it is impossible for any elitist ruler to do so; the idea is a contradiction. Different people have different needs, and no leader can wave a wand and meet them all. The individuals themselves are far more likely to make these decisions best. After all, they have a vested interest in the situation. For instance, imagine a trial lawyer trying to determine whether to take a risky case. Though his financial advisor may be rich, powerful, and brilliant, he alone truly knows the case; hence, he is the best person to make a final decision about it.
On the contrary, some may state that elitism is necessary for certain functions of life. A baseball coach, for instance, is far more useful than a novice player in teaching how to swing the bat. But politics is not a sport. The swinging of a bat harms nobody unless the player decides not to grip it well. Unfortunately, politics does not work in this manner, and the decisions have much greater impacts. Moreover, political events affect individuals in ways that no elitist can truly understand without being involved. Due to the size of an elite, though, it is almost impossible for them to have knowledge of all people’s needs.
Hit or Miss
Alternatively, elitism offers the possibility that the leader in charge does not satisfy the peoples’ needs. In this case, the power that an elite has can lead to dangerous consequences. Tyranny grows even faster when all of the people in power share it. Without any strong resistance from other people in power, there is not much short of a revolution to stop an unjust elite.
Even if the leader violates the laws of logic and makes truly everyone happy, there is no guarantee that he or she will continue to do so. Moreover, a term of rule is never permanent, and future rulers are unlikely to carry on an identical legacy as past ones. Even if a ruler pleased absolutely everyone, the successor, more than likely, would not.
Thus, it appears that elitism is not an adequate way to promote good. The elitist cannot be truly good, for there are too many people to tend to; it is impossible to do so for all of them. When he or she is bad, the consequences are far too dire. We must not entrust power to those who will be unseeing at best and despotic at worst.
Populism: Lukewarm Water
Populism, on the other hand, gives a far greater role to the people. As stated previously, they tend to support more policies that reflect the desire of the majority, which usually is the working and middle classes. For example, they may strongly support unions and oppose giving government elites too much power. This does not, however, necessarily mean they support smaller government, as many populists support a strongly graduated income tax and high tariffs.
Populism and elitism both are ridden with issues, but a particular one is unique to populism; so many people are in the decision-making processes that the voices of legitimate experts are weak. Populism is more likely to be democratic and give strong favor to the majority. And if the majority is wrong? Tough luck, it isn’t the will of the people.
Despite its prevalence on both the left and the right, populism generally limits the realm of acceptable thought. As masses of people must approve policies before they go into action, it is hard for an individual with an innovative idea to further it. Majorities are often wrong, as are elites.
The Moderating Effect
Imagine that 10 people in a room of 30 are fascists. 10 more are standard American liberals and conservatives, but the last 10 people are anarchists. In a populist system, each opinion receives equal weight, and those that do not have the support of the people will falter. In this case, the ten fascists will not see much support from the other 20. So, it is safe to say that populism has a moderating effect on tyranny. In an elitist system, if the one or few in charge is or are fascist, then fascist policies will rule. A populist system, however, can quench the fires of extreme tyranny.
Yet, this same effect happens on ideas of liberty. The 10 anarchists, under populism, are not going to receive support from the 20 who do believe in a state. Similarly, populism has a moderating effect on liberty, preventing true freedom from ever occurring. Where elitism takes a gamble, populism removes both the risk and the reward. In place, there is only a system of lukewarm moderation, in which no forms of true liberty are likely to exist.
As stated above, people have drastically differing needs. An elite leader may or may not attempt to make them all happy. The populists, on the contrary, are far more likely to do so. But is this a good thing?
If ten people believe in a free society that benefits all, but fifty people propose a notion that they believe will benefit the people (as the majority, whatever they believe will benefit them will benefit the most people in a disagreement), then the fifty, however right or wrong they are, will take precedence. Generally, populism, like democracy, places tremendous importance on the people are stresses equal say.
On the other hand, if the roles are switched, the fifty people in favor of liberty will see their idea gain more momentum. However, this is not due to the merits of the idea itself, but simply due to a majority holding the opinion and the majority can certainly be wrong.
In fact, most Americans do not even know the basic functions of their own government. In a recent poll, 37 percent of Americans could not name a First Amendment right. 74 percent could not name the branches of government and more than half said that illegal immigrants have no Constitutional rights. Are these really the people that should be making the decisions that affect us all?
Populism and Elitism: Shared Faults
Populism and elitism, without a doubt, differ considerably in their means and implementations. Also, they have some distinctly different flaws. Despite this, there is a key piece that the two ideas have in common; they both suggest that others can and should forcibly make decisions for you.
In a situation in which you are not the expert, it is wise to allow one to step in. On the contrary, it can be beneficial to take a poll of many other perspectives to see the merits of an idea. Yet, populism and elitism do both of these things by force, imposing them through the will of the government onto the people. In neither case is anyone really free, with the possible exception of the rulers in an elitist system.
The court case example from above applies to populism as well. There is nothing necessarily different about a majority and an elite. Both may have good intentions and be correct. But, both may also have wicked intentions or be incorrect (or both). For this reason, it is highly irresponsible to give the power of decision-making to anyone but the individual. In most cases, the individual is the most capable of making his or her own choices. Exceptions certainly exist, but nothing is stopping people from choosing to seek the opinions of majorities or experts. But overreliance on one, the other, or both is a road to disaster. We must, in order for a free society to prosper, allow each of us to make our own choices. Populism and elitism simply are not compatible with this idea.
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By Jack Parkos | United States
In light of recent events on the border, we have seen many American Democrats attack President Donald Trump. In fact, they have given him much of the blame for separation at the border. However, this policy has been law since Bill Clinton was president. When he signed it into law, there simply was not this much backlash. There was not mass anger when George Bush or Barack Obama enforced it: only when populist Trump did.
Border separation is wrong, but it is illogical to solely blame Trump. Attacks on the president are quite frequent from all sides of the aisle, but there is a particular note of interest in regards to them. Ironically, they never seem to criticize when criticism is due. The best way to look at Trump is objectively. Call out when he is good, call out when he is bad, and hope he does the right thing. But elitists often refuse to do this, and this created Trump and the anti-media populism movement.
Often times, everywhere from the media to college campuses, right populism receives negative attention. Common talking points include the notion that gun rights advocates do not care about children, and that those who want to replace Obamacare do not care about the poor. In many instances, such as these, people use strawman arguments against right populism.
In general, elitists refers to a number of groups. It references the mainstream media, first of all. In general, mainstream media shows considerable bias, thus molding the view of the people from a more elite standpoint. However, it also includes groups such as Antifa, which rarely allows those with differing viewpoints to speak peacefully. Both of these groups, ironically, allowed for Trump to rise.
When Trump came along, he was controversial. His supporters jumped on the train, while the elitists went to war with him. The media called him Fascist and called his supporters neo-nazis. Hillary Clinton even called his supporters deplorable. Whether a fan of Trump or not, it’s clear the coverage was biased. In fact, CNN spent 93% of their Trump-related news coverage in early 2017 on the Russia scandal. Though this is an important issue to cover, many others, such as the Obamacare replacement bill, were not given sufficient coverage because of this.
Does this mean the media shouldn’t ever criticize the president? Obviously not. A free press is key in a major society. But, if the media is going to be so extreme, it shouldn’t be so shocked with the result. Actions have reactions. In this case, elitist media bias created populist backlash. When the government and media appear corrupt, the people will stand against them.
Elitists, in this sense, created their own worst enemy. Though Trump’s lack of professionalism at times is not excusable, it also does not take away from the fact that elitism is what brought the man into office. Populism was due to rise, and Trump is merely the figurehead of the broader movement.
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By Ethan Suquet | USA
Right now as we ease into the new year of 2018 Republicans seem divided over the years agenda and there seem to be two sides to that. On the one hand, there’s the populist wing of the Republican party led by President Trump that would like 2018 to focus on what would amount to a bipartisan multi-billion dollar boondoggle on infrastructure spending. On the other hand lies the conservative wing of the Republican party, led by Speaker Ryan that is ready to sit down and be the adults in the room that make sure that future generations aren’t handed down tens of trillions of dollars more in debt because of irresponsible entitlement spending. In this new years agenda we on the right need to remain united, we must unite under a major policy push to fix entitlements, we must stand with Ryan.
Since his early years in Congress, Paul Ryan has been a leader on entitlements, in 2012 when he was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee he was the half of the ticket that helped the GOP come to a consensus around medicare vouchers. He has had the courage to touch the third rail in politics without hesitation, saying things in interviews such as “competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare”. On the right, we need to choose between two paths right now. The Ryan path of solving the problems of the day and making sure that we don’t pass on crushing debt to the next generation or the Trump path of blowing up the deficit with a big government intrusion into the issue of infrastructure. This path will not be an easy path. On infrastructure, there’s the option of a consensus by the big government factions of both parties that could garner upwards of 70 votes in the Senate, while on infrastructure we would be hitching our bets of entitlement reform on Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins casting a conservative vote. Although entitlement reform won’t be anywhere near as easy to pass as an infrastructure bill, it’s the right thing to do, and because of that everyone on the right must unite around an entitlement based 2018 agenda and stand with Ryan.