July 29, 2018


Election 2020: Elizabeth Warren's version of populism has more in common with Trumpism than Democrats want to admit (Noah Rothman, 7/28/18, NBC)

Of course, no populist is truly for the people, generally speaking. They are for their people. Therefore, no populist can be an effective populist without identifying and attacking the enemies of their people. Trump has his enemies; they consist primarily of the people and institutions who fail to flatter him to his satisfaction, but not entirely. Trump also spent 2016 upbraiding an ill-defined set of political and cultural elites who had supposedly sold out the country to feather their own nests.

Progressive populists have enemies, too. According to Warren, they are the "folks who like having the power and the riches they have" and who need only to "tweak their pinkie" to compel politicians to see to their economic interests. "They're the ones who want to take advantage of this country," Warren told CNBC's Harwood. "They're the ones who want to cheat." Who is the "they" here? That depends on who you hate today. [...]

But it isn't just in policy terms that Elizabeth Warren appears as a reflection of Donald Trump in a funhouse mirror. A profile of the likely presidential candidate by New York Magazine's Rebecca Traister reveals, sometimes inadvertently, other similarities between Warren and her nemesis in the Oval Office. Traister describes the Massachusetts senator as "so proud of her Twitter takedowns of our president" that she published them in her book. She's deemed a true "outsider," despite her role as a Harvard University professor, best-selling author and fixture in Washington for over a decade. Warren is also poised to run against her party's veteran congressional leadership -- whereas many Americans look back fondly on the 1990s, populist progressives remember it more as a time when Democrats were too accommodating towards financiers and capitalists.

Warren is even described as leaning into the kind of divisive identity politics Trump loves so much. "Warren has in these past two years stoked and fed off grassroots rage, especially that of resistance women," Traister wrote. The purely economic message that was once Warren's comfort zone is out of fashion on the activist left. That's why, the author wrote with a perceptible note of incredulity, "she's been shocked into a new relationship with feminism."

Even more noteworthy was how Warren chose to illustrate her feminist credentials for Traister: by citing examples of discrimination she says she's experienced as a woman. Trump, too, is a victim; of the press, of incompetent politicians, of the FBI and the CIA. The coalition he cobbled together are also victims. Foreign labor, free trade, elite condescension; all of it is designed to reinforce a persecution complex within a particular demographic.

It is a safe bet that the narcissism of small differences will ensure that the modest demographic, temperamental and policy distinctions between Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent will be wildly inflated. Rationalization is powerful stuff. But in terms of substance, both progressive and nationalist brands of populism often share more similarities than distinctions.

Posted by at July 29, 2018 6:44 AM