Thoughts On Populist Politics

Modern politicians smile for the cameras because they want to look normal and like “one of the people.” When they smile — at nothing, as a pose, to present themselves as smilers — they look like idiots who do not take life or politics seriously. Hence, they achieve their end perfectly: They look eminently normal. They look exactly like “the people.”

Today’s political tribes each have their own fully committed media outlets, their own ideologically-dedicated intellectuals, and their own collections of expert commentators. None of these entities or individuals have anything valuable to contribute to any discussion of ultimate importance — except the negative contribution of drowning out anyone who makes an honest attempt to inform the public, any thinker dedicated to truth rather than to party or ideology, and any observer with the courage to call the bluff of all the phony “knowers” among the politically motivated pseudo-experts on all sides.

Populism, an old term that has come back into vogue in recent years, is merely an alternative word for demagoguery. Demagoguery is by definition a concatenation of lies and power lust. Let me reiterate that point, one all to easy to overlook in our omni-populist climate: All demagoguery is definitionally, essentially, fraudulent — a pretense at caring about the ordinary man motivated entirely by the vicious desire for fame, advantage, and power. There is no other populism, no other kind of populist. Demagoguery has no rational defense, for it is not an “approach” to government, or a political philosophy, but simply politics as pursued by a manipulative self-seeker without concern for any genuine common good.

One must always remember this fact. Demagoguery admits of no “better or worse.” It is itself exemplary of the worst of all political endeavor; for as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle explained with great clarity, demagoguery — which we self-protectively euphemize today as “populism” — is the natural and normal precursor to tyranny.

You may also like...