Thomas Frank’s new book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism is an absolute must read for anyone who prefers the truth to the delusional political world in which currently reside. I’m not kidding. If you want to understand why Trump won, and why he very likely could win again, (No, it’s not the Russians) you need to read this book. He gives you the whole story – the history, the background and the nuances. As I’ve often discussed before, Nebraska played a not insignificant role in this history. It’s vitally important to understand why Nebraskans were so liberal minded 120 years ago and so conservative today.
The great thing about Frank is that he is a Kansas City boy. He understands our part of the world. He finished his Master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in history and speaks fluent liberal elite. He talks about how today populism is seen as inherently deplorable, but how the real story of populism and progressivism by extension was one of enlightenment and liberation, promise and optimism. Until I read his book, I could never understand why the opinions of average people could be portrayed as such a bad thing. He explains things through a prism of democracy, and how the Democratic Party has gradually walked away from the people in exchange for elitist tripe. He explains why the people are “not the problem of our times, but the solution for what ails us.”
Frank illustrates how the influences of coastal media have become ever more condescending, course and dismissive of anyone not of their ilk. A very much “Let them eat cake” message has been booming at us for the last twenty years, and Trump capitalized and continues to capitalize on this attitude every single day. He describes Trump as the “worst politician ever”, but fully recognizes he is following a very smart plan. One of the biggest failures is our inability to recognize and then counter his successful strategy.
He explains how Trump took direct aim at the tremendous marketing opportunity left wide-open by our Party. He became the champion of the working class. The market was going through the roof, but the average American was losing ground. The workers' share of GDP hit its lowest level in American history during the Obama Recovery. So, as we smugly sat back with dripping condescension, Trump railed against NAFTA, the Military Industrial Complex and NATO, big Pharma and the TPP. He aimed his pitch at the average working Joe and Jill, and attacked the “Establishment” as an organization of the liberal elite. Frank asks, “Why shouldn’t our culture just get worse and worse, if making it get worse will only cause the people who worsen it to grow wealthier and wealthier.” It’s no mistake his words sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders. Bernie recognized the opening too, and the very same elites that fear and hate Donald Trump, fear and hate him.
In his discussion of the growing condescension toward populism, Franks says, “Now anti-populism was taken up by a new elite, a liberal elite that was led by a handful of thinkers at prestigious universities … In short, the highly educated learned to deplore working-class movements for their bigotry, their refusal of modernity, and their borderline madness… the lower orders, they insist, are driven by irrationality, bigotry, authoritarianism, and hate; democracy is a problem because it gives such people a voice.” I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like most of the hard working Nebraskans I know.
In response to this shift in ideology and building on what is essentially a non-democratic approach, Trump began by utterly denouncing the fabric of their thinking. He mocked political correctness in its extreme, which caused us to double-down to an even more absurd level, and the people began to desert us. And every day the violent riots play-out, rather than condemn them, we deny they even exist. The point is: The people see the truth. They always see the truth.
Frank explains in careful detail how the Party elites have gradually dismissed anything that smacks of populism. We’re talking about a real Party realignment, not unlike the realignment led by William Jennings Bryan over a century ago. You know the one that created the foundation of the modern Democratic Party that you and I cherish. No one knows exactly how this new realignment will shake out in the end. The election in November will give us a strong indication of what will happen next, but make no mistake, it is coming.
These days the Democratic Party establishment hates Thomas Frank. He joins a growing list of highly respected liberal journalists and writers who refuse to go down the rabbit hole. He has a track record of telling the truth and being right, and they don’t want to hear it. Being caught repeatedly making the same mistakes over and over is a terrible thing to have to defend, but our Party can’t help itself. I know from personal experience that the lock-step Party faithful are more than happy to denounce and castigate anyone who dares to break with the lexicon of the moment. But telling the truth and using common sense has always been the way to capture the hearts and minds of the people. And that’s the only way you win in a democracy.
If you want to understand all of this far better then I’ll ever be able to explain it, click on the link below and buy this book. As Gloria Steinem said, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com