Just read an interesting article by John Judis in the New Republic: Dave Brat and the Triumph of Right Wing Populism. In it, he briefly discusses producerism, the American strain of populism, and its right and left wing variants:
American populism is rooted in middle class resentment of those who are seen as enjoying the benefits of the goods and services the middle class produces without having earned them through work. Its ideology is what historians call “producerism.” It first appears in the Jacksonian Workingmen’s Parties and then in the Populists of the late nineteenth century. But it takes a leftwing and a rightwing form.Brat ran a right wing populist campaign:
Facing an ailing economy, leftwing populists from Huey Long to Paul Wellstone primarily blame Wall Street, big business and the politicians whom they fund. Rightwing populists from George Wallace to Pat Buchanan also blame Wall Street, but put equal if not greater blame on the poor, the unemployed, the immigrant, and the minorities, who, like the coupon-clipper on Wall Street, are seen as economic parasites.
Speaking last month before the Mechanicsville Tea Party, Brat tied Cantor to Wall Street and big business, whom he blamed partly for the financial crisis. “All the investment banks in the new York and DC -- those guys should have gone to jail. Instead of going to jail, they went on Eric’s rolodex, and they are sending him big checks,” he said. Brat echoed these charges in a radio interview. “The crooks up on Wall Street and some of the big banks -- I’m pro business, I’m just talking about the crooks -- they didn’t go to jail they are on Eric’s rolodex,” he said.This Ayn Rand-loving, right wing Christian fundie criticized Cantor as a tool of Wall Street.
He accused Cantor of following business’s lead on immigration reform. “Eric is running on the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles,” Brat told a Tea Party audience. “They want amnesty for illegal immigrants. They want them granted citizenship. And it’s in the millions -- 40 millions coming in. if you add 40 million workers to our labor supply, what will happen to the wage rate for the average American?”
I find this interesting. George Wallace, the renowned racist, was the most prominent right wing populist of my life. His appeal mostly was to southerners and to working class, racist whites.
People on the left have vainly sought to reach the right wing populists for generations, only to fail. Right wing producerism just does not include non-whites. It's merged with white supremacy and the alienation many whites feel as white skin privilege just does not place them in the middle class anymore. I see no reason to reach out to these people because it is a waste of time. Nonetheless, I find it interesting that he attacked bankers. There is a long history in right wing populism of attacking Jewish bankers. The Birchers thought that Jewish bankers and the Communists were allies. I doubt, however, that antisemitism was the driver here. In the end, I think Cantor was not very likeable, and it cost him.
Update I: Gooserock points out in the comments that Brat is not a Christian fundamentalist. Rather, he is a Roman Catholic. Notwithstanding the attacks on wall Street, I doubt that he is a fan of Pope Francis' teachings on economic equality. This is more in the Pat Buchanan strain. Or Paul Ryan, who professes Catholicism but follows Ayn Rand.