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The diehards always show up first. Go to any protest or march and odds are you'll see them before you see anyone else. They're there before the cops and before the media and before the organizers themselves. All you have to do is look for a small handful of aged men and women huddled around a park bench or a street corner with a trove of pre-made signs and placards resting on the ground, some of which have probably been used at multiple rallies for various causes. In spray paint and sharpie marker, they shout out their slogans: Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out; Tax the Rich; Freedom From Austerity. Each one brims with the type of anti-government, egalitarian fervor that has characterized grassroots American progressive movements since the agrarian populism of the late 19th century and which has become central to the success of the Occupy movement.

That Occupy and the perpetual hot mess that is the American Left have recently seen an uptick in prominence shouldn't come as a surprise given the dire state of the American worker and the fact that we find ourselves living through a sort of Second Gilded Age. What has been both surprising and eminently foreseeable is the fact that rural and suburban whites, groups which had for the first 175 years of the republic's existence usually reacted to plutocratic injustice and economic hardship by shifting left towards groups like The Farmer-Labor Party and embracing social welfare programs like those in The New Deal, have reacted to recent financial and political crises by sprinting to the right.

"I feed you all!” was a lithograph created by The Grange Movement, a agricultural advocacy group and fraternity that was a precursor to the Prairie Populist movement of the 1890s.

The unique thing about populism is that it's an amorphous ideology that doesn't belong to any one side of the political spectrum. The American Populist movement started out at the end of the 19th Century with a leftist bent, advocating for the rights of small farmers in opposition to the Democratic and Republican Parties, who were controlled by corporate interest and generally acted as their surrogates. These pioneering populists, who came principally from the south and the plains states, promoted a platform that called for, among other things, a graduated income tax, government control of all railways and increases in public works projects in the event of a depression. Keep in mind, the people advocating these reforms were comprised primarily of poor white farmers. Can you imagine rural whites coming out in large numbers today to demand a progressive tax structure and further government intervention in their lives? The idea of the city liberal and the country conservative has become so deeply rooted into our collective American consciousness that the very idea of a political universe that deviates from it seems patently absurd. The only problem is, it's not.

As recently as 80 years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt pulled in 89.9% of the popular vote in the Deep South.I'll wait while that little statistical nugget sinks in, and then I'll repeat it again in case you've managed to convince yourself that you just hallucinated reading it. FDR, arguably our nation's most progressive President and the architect of the largest social welfare and economic recovery program our country has ever seen, received nine out of every ten votes in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina during the 1936 Presidential Election.(1) And all of this is more than a quarter century before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, meaning that the overwhelming majority of these votes were cast by rural whites, the same people we consider to be intractably conservative today. So, what happened? The answer, as it does with most of American history, lies in race and class.

In many ways, the Prairie Populism of the 1890s serves as an ideological forerunner of the Occupy movement today. It was a grassroots movement that sprung up in response to tremendous income inequality and an accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small class of robber barons and aristocrats who exploited their workers for financial gain. Ideologically, the early populist movement was a throwback to the old Jeffersonian notion of the independent yeoman farmer being the bedrock of democracy. Of course, these yeoman farmers are now all but extinct in the US due to the almighty hand of agribusiness. The corporate hoards at Monsanto and Arthur Daniels Midland have gobbled up nearly every acre of land in sight for their profit, encouraged by an expanding, globalized economy and corporation-friendly regulatory agencies to stoke the fire of their own excess at the expense of those who need every bit of what they have. They have been able to do this, in large part, because the ever-dwindling yeomanry subscribed to Jeffersonian views on race as well.

A good example of this is Thomas E. Watson, a US Congressman and native son of Georgia who was instrumental in the founding of the state's Populist Party. Watson was born five years before the first shots of The Civil War were fired, two miles outside of the town of Thomson, GA. Well-to-do land and slave owners at the time of his birth, the Watson family would quickly see their financial security evaporate as they lost the bulk of their wealth during the war and Reconstruction. Watson's family lived just north of Sherman's March to the Sea and there's little doubt that Watson saw the Union soldiers marching through McDuffie County, looting homes, setting fires and leaving Sherman's Neckties(2) as parting gifts. After earning his law degree and serving a brief stint as a state congressman, Watson was elected to the the US House of Representatives after aligning himself with the Farmer's Alliance, a newly formed populist group of Southern farmers who had been mobilized by the bereft post-Civil War economy based primarily around sharecropping. In the early 1890s,Watson tried to recruit for the Alliance by appealing to class solidarity over racial division, calling on both poor white and poor black farmers to band together and fight back against the new monied elite. Despite the extreme destitution in the South at the time, Watson's vision of a racially unified populist movement never came to fruition and, after a making a failed bid for the Vice Presidency on a Populist ticket with William Jennings Bryan in 1896, Watson decided to exchange a platform of unity with one of bitter division.

By the turn of the century, Watson had divested himself of his progressive notions regarding racial solidarity and African-American suffrage in order to become a virulent bigot. After two dismal Presidential bids in 1904 and 1908, Watson became Georgia's foremost trumpeter of White Supremacist vitriol, calling for the reorganization of the Ku Klux Klan and attacking “Jew libertines”, Roman Catholics and African-Americans in his two publications, Watson's Magazine and The Jeffersonian. Anyone who has had occasion to read some of nauseatingly bigoted rhetoric of the early Jim Crow South knows the sorts of epithets and racist falsehoods that were promulgated by white Southerners (and Northerners) back then, and Mr. Watson's distinct brand of Nativist bile need not be repeated here. However, it is worth noting that in 1915, Watson played an instrumental role in the death of Leo Frank, a Jewish-American factory manager who had been charged with the death of a white woman.

Yep...Tom Watson Actually Titled His Essay, "The Official Record in the Case of Leo Frank, Jew Pervert."

Originally sentenced to death in 1913, Frank had undergone a lengthy appeals process during which Watson used his periodicals to hurl Anti-Semitic epithets and assert the supremacy of the white race. In June of 1915, Georgia's governor commuted Frank's sentence to that of life in prison, a decision which outraged Watson and his white supremacist counterparts. In August of that same year, a lynch mob stormed the prison where Frank was being held, abducted him from his cell and promptly hanged him.To this Watson said:

“Frank was legally under sentence of death when the Vigilance Committee6 took him out, and hanged him by the neck until he was dead. All power is in the people7. Courts, juries, sheriffs, governors draw their authority from this original source: when the constituted authorities are unable, or unwilling to protect life, liberty and property, the People must assert their inherent right to do so.”

In 1913, White America asserted their inherent right to protect their life, liberty and property. In 2013, White America exercises the right to Stand Their Ground through the exercise of legally authorized, deadly force if, “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” If a black woman so much as thought about asserting her right to life, liberty and property in 1913, she would be thrown in jail and possibly lynched. If a black woman tries to Stand Her Ground in 2013 by firing a gun into the air to get her physically abusive husband out of her house, she's given a 20 year sentence in prison.

When many populists talk of the rights of the people, they often don't mean all people. Rather, the history of American Populism is rife with instances of racial injustice masquerading as a crusade for personal liberty. It's not coincidence that the 20th century's two most influential American populists figures were Alabama Governor and noted segregationist George Wallace and Roman Catholic media pioneer and rabid anti-semite Father Charles Coughlin. Just as Watson did, both men used populist rhetoric in order to exploit the racial and religious prejudices of white, Christian America during turbulent times and gain a substantial following. It is only through the froth and venom of these racially rooted double standards that working class Whites have not turned their bloodlust towards the men who legitimately oppress them.

The inflammatory rhetoric that we hear today from the likes of Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk is not by any stretch of the imagination novel. Like almost all of humanity's myriad endeavors, they are but variations on themes that have been played out for millennia. There are few meaningful differences between a Father Coughlin and a Glenn Beck that can't be chalked up to the peculiar circumstances of the times in which they live. Both are men who took advantage of a burgeoning medium of mass communication and dire economic straits to cultivate a culture of hysterical fear and loathing amongst their followers. The main difference is that Father Coughlin's movement was snuffed out by progressive, sweeping New Deal Reforms that forever American life for the better, feeding and housing and providing steady work for tens of millions of Americans. However, during the economic collapse in 2008 and The Great Recession which followed, there has been no progressive force to counteract that reactionary onslaught of the emboldened American Right. Barack Obama, whatever you might think of him, is most certainly not a progressive. He is a centrist New Democrat and, even if he were immensely popular President--which he isn't--he is incapable of counterbalancing the vitriol and conservative fervor of the far right. There was no heir to FDR's ideological throne in 2008 and there were no bold new reforms like Works Progress Administration or the Tennessee Valley Authority. There's not much of the left left in the Democratic Party anymore and, until it makes a resurgence, the populist mantle will remain squarely in the hands of the right.


(1) Even more amazing is the fact that in Mississippi and South Carolina, arguably the two most staunchly conservative states in 21st century America , 271,724 out of 277,579 votes were cast for FDR in the 1936 Presidential Election. That's nearly 98% of the vote total for those two states. To give an idea of how unreal that is, the best Ronald Reagan managed to do in an individual state when he wiped the floor with Mondale in '84 was 74.5% in Utah.

(2) “Sherman's Neckties” was the name given to railway rails that had been heated up and twisted into loops so that the Confederates could not reuse them. They were so named because the rails bore a resemblance to a necktie when bent.

Originally posted to Virally Suppressed on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 12:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's more to it than just race (14+ / 0-)

    I tried to describe it here.

     Thanks for the background

    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

    by gjohnsit on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 12:49:12 PM PDT

    •  Excellent diary (14+ / 0-)

      Comparing the 1964 and 1994 elections for the relative effects of the Civil Rights Act and NAFTA was great (I for one, had never seen that before).

      However, I would disagree slightly with your position on Eisenhower and the concept of an economically driven Southern vote for a pro-civil rights GOP.

      For one thing, I don't think you can adequately reconcile the politics of the GOP in the 1950s with the ideologically driven behemoth that stands before us today. They are two completely different parties that now happen to share the same name and little else. If the likes of Eisenhower, Bob Taft and Nelson Rockefeller tried to crash the GOP party today they'd be run out of town for being a bunch of liberal fruitcakes and (in Taft's case) pacifist pansies.

      The other is that I believe civil rights weren't issues during the Eisenhower elections because almost all of the catalyzing events besides Brown happened after Eisenhower had won his 2nd term. The stances on Civil Rights for Eisenhower and Stevenson were close enough (I believe) to cancel each other out and make race much less of a deciding issue in 52 and 56.

      For my money, I would focus in on 1960 as the year that the seeds for the GOP to abandon the civil rights movement for the southern vote, because Nixon screwed the pooch by agreeing to Rockefeller's pro-civil rights agenda for the RNC, alienating a fair number of southerners who would have gone with Nixon had he shown any substantial split with Kennedy on the issue if race.

      Nixon never forgot that and, after Goldwater's states rights sweep of the deep south, is when the Southern Strategy really came into its own.

      •  A very important Diary! (0+ / 0-)

        This Diary has some very important research and a message that should be widely distributed to a large population - the South has not always been Republican!

        People in the South used to vote for for their economic interests before the Republican Party started playing the Race Card.  The South in the '60's was a different place.  The USA in the '60's was a different place.  There was some racism, but it was not the ugly racism that is practiced by the Republican Party today.  There were some class struggles that Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John L. Lewis, and the leaders of the Civil Rights battles of the '60's led, but there was not the insidious racism and class hatred that we have from the GOP in 2014.

        Voters should select people to represent them in their government. People in government should not select people who may vote!

        by NM Ray on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 10:10:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Wilhelm Reich: Nazism Was Rural Sexual Hysteria (6+ / 0-)

      The rise of Nazism was largely driven by an intensely antisemitic rural populist movement where people felt they were willing to surrender their personal freedom to role back the  sexual chaos of intermarriage of Jews and Gentiles.  Which sounds a little far fetched except that a million Christians signed petitions demanding new laws, and one of the few actual laws passed by the Nazis were the Nuremberg Laws about intermarriage.  

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 08:03:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well struck bernardpliers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        WR is the singlemost underrated social philosopher in human history, IMO. His words are often so blinding in their truth that I am afraid Humanity still isn't grown up enough to accept the truth of a whole lot of what he said.

        If you got the (on the surface disparate and unconnectable) theories of "Stand Your Ground" and "Exotic Becomes Erotic" into a Singles Meet-up in the same room, they'd SURELY end up slow-dancing and they might even go home together.

        "Some of you are going to die... martyrs, of course, to the Freedom that I will provide!"

        by emperor nobody on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 11:36:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Third Way is fatal to Dems' prospects w/ white (4+ / 0-)

      working class voters.  When wages are stagnant (or even declining) and when union density nosedives racial and social issues can easily be used to manipulate resentments.   Either Dems help labor get back on its feet and don't wait until year 6 of a presidency to start trying to increase minimum wage, or they accept that they will struggle w/ such voters.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:09:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Certainly at this point younger and older workers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        are being pitted against each other. And it appears to be working. It wouldn't take much to re-hydrate old social stigmas and biases given the issues of the day which inspire so much personal and national insecurities.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:19:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Tipped ....n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. Elizabeth Warren Progressive Wing of political spectrum.

        by emal on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 01:24:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Would tip but can't...virtual tip (0+ / 0-)

      Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. Elizabeth Warren Progressive Wing of political spectrum.

      by emal on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 01:23:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Populism has always been split (19+ / 0-)

    Several diaries recently on this topic. And remember that outside the South the Farmers Alliance was anti-racist, not that it matters, since they and the Grangers were soundly beaten by the Corporations using the Courts. That part of the story does matter because we are still living with the disaster of Corporations usurping Constitutional rights.

    However even in this rural area, our elderly populists with the Occupy and Move To Amend hand-lettered signs are fervently non-racist, and I suspect they are the "die-hards" you speak of. NONE of them listen to Beck, though they are ambivalent, at best, about govt. A number of them work in or retired from teaching or social services jobs.

    My biggest frustration with my Calif. Democratic reps and Dems in general, is that they are still chugging the neo-liberal free market koolaid. I write and call begging them to support their constituents interests rather than Agribusiness, the Security State and the rest of the MIC to no avail. I ask them why they are giving away populist Constitutional issues, like surveillance and lobbyist law-making to the Rand Paulies. My friend in the Green Party laughs at me.

    •  We [the dems] (9+ / 0-)

      lost a huge opportunity to bring these people into the dem party by our sellout to moneyed interests.

      Then again, dems at the top don't care about party building or representing the people you talk about....they don't care about the people at all.  

      The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

      by dfarrah on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:36:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dkos cares more about electing Dems than the Party (5+ / 0-)

        leadership does. It's been a no-brainer since 2004, when the working class knew they were going down the tubes, that globalization was a massive failure for the US. Yet, in ten years, it's not been once proposed by the top Dems that we need a Massive Federal Jobs stimulus. And, no, giving x% tax breaks to Corporations for hiring workers who will turn into 100% balance-sheet loses is not a "Jobs Plan."

        The Party as a whole has no interest in winning elections, if representing the people's needs and wishes would thwart, even inhibit, the Corporate/Banker class in any meaninful way.

        Real fixes, outside the coffin fixes, ain't ever pragmatic says DC Bubble Conventional Wisdoom.

        by Jim P on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 02:21:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Tipped....n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. Elizabeth Warren Progressive Wing of political spectrum.

        by emal on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 01:24:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Populism is just telling your audience what they (3+ / 0-)

    want to hear.  Often attributed to politicians.

    If I comply with non-compliance am I complying? Sarcasm is the ability to insult stupid people without them realizing it.

    by thestructureguy on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 03:26:19 PM PDT

  •  I think "stormed the prison" is a bit of an (11+ / 0-)

    exaggeration vis a vis the murder of Leo Frank. I don't believe that a single shot was fired or that the guards offered even a token resistance. As I understand it, the lynchers just walked in unhindered and took him.

    He was actually abducted from his hospital bed at the State Prison Farm where he was recuperating from an attempted throat slashing by another inmate.

    Such was the "rule of law" in Georgia at the time.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 04:03:21 PM PDT

  •  Populism is a double-edged sword - always has been (29+ / 0-)

    Populism comes from the gut, not the brain. It's driven by passion, not logic or reason.

    And here's the thing about the gut. The far right has co-opted American populism because they've abandoned logic and reason; the gut is all they have. And what they have is based on making people angry and afraid. The far right can't use fact-based appeals to voters because the facts are not on their side, so they don't even try.

    Instead they create an alternate reality where the 'facts' are designed to fire up the gut. They reduce complex issues to black and white; if you're not for them, you're against them. And once people start thinking within that framework, the brain becomes irrelevant.

    The gut is running the show. The gut has plenty of entertaining stories like "welfare cadillac queens" and "job-killing tree-huggers" and "faceless government bureaucrats" to create a picture of the world. The gut does not need information when it has belief. The gut does not need an open mind when it's convinced it's right.

    The left's attitude toward's the gut has changed. The passions FDR rode putting through the New Deal subsided because the left's gut got comfortable - the left had succeeded. Passion became dangerous because it threatened that ease. "Hippie-punching" sums up that attitude, the reflex on the part of the Democratic establishment to suppress passion because it threatens the established order they are part of. They're no longer populist - they've become elitist, the haves who now fear the have-nots.

    When the Democratic establishment gets on the right side of history again, the gut will be with them - because then facts, reason, and emotion will all be headed in the same direction again.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:32:48 PM PDT

    •  You're insulting alot (9+ / 0-)

      of people with this: The far right has co-opted American populism because they've abandoned logic and reason; the gut is all they have.

      These people are well aware that big money runs the show; they are well aware that the banks got bailed out while Main Street suffered.  They are well aware that the dems are just as compromised as the repubs by money.

      Dems no longer represent the people - that's the root cause of the people moving to the repub side when repubs make a few populist noises.

      Had the dems been, for example, fighting for minimum wage increases all of these years, instead of stiffing the workers, we would likely have a decent number of these people on our side.  But the dems sold out working people long ago.

      The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

      by dfarrah on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:41:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You misunderestimate my point. Let me explicate (8+ / 0-)

        For example: the ones angry about the bank bail out - because they think the banks went broke because the government made them give money to people who didn't deserve it. This is using the gut in a way that feeds a false narrative. The right is expert as using the gut to attack the right targets for the wrong reasons when it suit their purposes.

        The Democratic establishment had a powerful opportunity to use the financial melt down as a teaching moment to demonstrate to America that everything Republicans have been promoting as Gospel inevitably leads to disaster. They chose not to do so. They refused to feed the gut.

        The gut is a powerful servant, but a terrible master.

        The right uses it to lead people around by the nose; the Democratic establishment thinks it's icky. Look at how scared they are to support the ACA, how they distanced themselves from Occupy Wall Street, how they're only now starting to pick up on the urgency of Climate Change.

        The brain can provide direction, but the energy to get in motion comes from the gut. Republicans turn the brain off so they can get the gut pointed in the wrong direction; Establishment Democrats try to engage brain, but argue about the direction too much - and they're afraid to fire up the gut for fear lest it go too far, too fast.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 05:03:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, I don't (4+ / 0-)

          misunderstand you at all.

          And you're wrong if you think that all of those on the right objected to the bank bailout because the $$ went to the "wrong people."

          These people have seen the jobs disappear; their lives have been negatively affected just like those in the middle class and on the left.

          The Democratic establishment had a powerful opportunity to use the financial melt down as a teaching moment to demonstrate to America that everything Republicans have been promoting as Gospel inevitably leads to disaster. They chose not to do so. They refused to feed the gut.

          Assuming that the dems even cared about the middle and lower classes, and that is a big assumption, if your quote is true, then the dems engaged in political malpractice.  They chose not to feed the gut?  No, they threw Main Street under the bus.

          And further, dems need to get over their condescending attitude.  Pointy headed liberals, anyone? People aren't fooled by 'logic.'  And they don't buy into liberals' attitude of superiority. Politicians who connect on an emotional level win.  It is just that simple.

          I think had the dems represented the people like they should have, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

          The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

          by dfarrah on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:24:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think it's an either/or (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            xaxnar, bsmechanic, Jim P, GreenMother

            You both make good points here.  

            The infrastructure of politics is rotting away. The Dems are not responsive to their base because there is no compelling financial incentive that makes them do so. The political election process is actually a farm system that serves to train Lobbyists and Corporate PR folks in how govt works. That knowledge is then used to get govt money into the hands of already moneyed interests. OR it is used to get rid of oversight and regulations that impede business interests.

            This is a Democratic problem. I know a great many people who worked for Dem pols who now believe it is their due to pull down the big bucks working for Corporate PR or Lobbying firms.  They take the information they learned working with interest groups and re-use it to support Big Pharma, Defense or other groups.

            Politics today is about learning how to put your fingers in someone else's brain and extract behavioral information. That information can help herd or manipulate  humans into certain behavior.  This is an ugly way of looking at the world, but not an untrue one.  Our current political system, which is unsustainable and heading for collapse, does this for a business or corporate end user. The end user is not the Democratic or Republican base.

            The system is stacked against people who want to work for "the people." Money, privilege, prestige and status accrue to those who work the ladder as it is now.  Again, this is unsustainable, but it is what is in place at this moment in time.

          •  You've bought into a gut-feeding meme (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "Pointy-headed liberals" is right-speak intended to make you reject without thinking what Democrats have to say, along with "condescending".

            We both agree that people who connect on an emotional level 'win' for a certain level of winning. The far right has put a huge amount of effort into connecting at that emotional level without ever letting their targets think it through - because they give them answers that agree with what their gut tells them.

            And you're wrong if you think that all of those on the right objected to the bank bailout because the $$ went to the "wrong people."

            These people have seen the jobs disappear; their lives have been negatively affected just like those in the middle class and on the left.

            And why do they believe that? It's because of what they 'know'. It's what they hear 24/7 from the right wing echo machine, with nothing comparable to counter act it. It's because unions drove their jobs overseas, along with the Democratic politicians who do the bidding of the union bosses. There lives have turned to crap because of all those people coming over the border stealing jobs and sucking down welfare and raising their taxes. It's because Democrats insisted on quotas that gave jobs to people who were unfit for them. It's because Democrats have destroyed the traditional values that made America great. It's because big government tax and spend liberals have made our country broke.

            Lather, rinse, repeat.

            And the media goes right along with it.  Charles P. Pierce has assembled chapter and verse on this in his book "Idiot America". Esquire has a good look at the central thesis.

            The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents -- for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power -- the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

            In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. Worst of all, the Gut is faith-based.

            If you listen to Rush or Hannity on the radio, you can hear the gut in all its dark glory every day.

            To paraphrase and extend an aphorism that's popular around here, "Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you'll do." And if you can show me how hard you believe it, I'll have an idea of how hard you'll work at it.

            It's dangerous to discount the power of the gut; it can be a critical factor in winning. So, what do you think would happen if the left put the same amount of energy into using their brains to tap the power of the gut AND found  way to make it work WITH the brain instead of against it?

            (This has been one of the problems with "No drama Obama." Too many times he's been a 'reasonable' compromising buzz kill.)

            "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

            by xaxnar on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 09:48:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Your comment (0+ / 0-)

              is exactly what I'm talking about.

              You really don't know how condescending you sound, nor do you even recognize the contradictions in what you say.

              I've supposedly bought into a gut feeling?  I'm supposedly 'rejecting without thinking?'   And then you wonder why the right wing calls us 'pointy headed liberals' and 'condescending.'

              Wow - could you possibly be any more condescending?  

              You're the epitome of that very criticism.

              I know all of the intellectual arguments that dems make.  I believe all of the intellectual arguments dems make.  However, there seems to be a big problem.  We aren't getting the votes by making the intellectual arguments.

              But if you want to keep being condescending toward the voters, telling them that they are too stupid and are only using their gut, you go right ahead.  And let me know how many non-dems you manage to convince to vote dem.

              The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

              by dfarrah on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:57:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  we still have NAFTA (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GreenMother, xaxnar

            a disaster for farmers and workers in the US and Mexico. I was so happy to hear the Dem candidate in 2008 saying he wanted a re-do. Wow, wouldn't that have been great, but what happened? And TPP was moving right along and for all I know, still is. The Dem leadership (few exceptions) are giving that populist issue away to the "libertarians" sorry to say. And no, objections to TPP aren't "emotional" either. A whole lot of folks know when they're getting screwed and who is doing it.

            •  In Okla, when the locals were fighting (3+ / 0-)

              projects that were tied in with NAFTA, it was the (sadly) the local Democrats who tried to stifle that resistance, even though the resistance was a coalition of locals that were positioned all over the political spectrum.
              The Republicans didn't do anything about this either.

              This is what helped the local version of the tea baggers. And had it been about issues like that, it would have been a respectable movement. However it was the obvious embrace of racism, sexism, and homophobia and a shitty attitude towards the poor, the elderly, indigent, etc., that ruined an integrity that might have existed in those earlier political explorations--that infamous I GOT MINE attitude.  

              "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

              by GreenMother on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:26:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  RELATIVE Affluence since WW2 has resulted in (3+ / 0-)

          this professional / managerial cla$$ with all the right credentials and right degrees and right attitudes and right zip codes and right vacation tastes and right careers

          (pst! a 'career' isn't a job! people who work have jobs, and, you have a career, so, you're ABOVE working people!)

          and a real unwillingness to rock the boat.

          So they hide behind their Smarterer! Gooderer!! Noblerer!!! potemkin activism of signing petition stuff suggesting that it might be advisable to consider NOT being too strong on too much too soon, maybe.

          What is "RELATIVE" affluence?

          from the census - PINC-01  for 2012

          appx. 250,000,000 Americans over age 15

          appx. 15,727,000 with money income OVER $100,000 a year.

          appx. 28,271,000 with money income OVER $75,000 a year.

          appx. 193,147,000 with money income UNDER $50,000 a year

          appx. 221,752,000 with money income UNDER $75,000 a year.

          I spent 40 plus years under $50, my entire 54 years under $75.

          Oh yeah - 2012 Household Income

          Appx 122,459,000 households.

          appx. 24,492,000 with money income OVER $100,000 a year. (Top 20%)

          appx. 97,986,000 with money income UNDER $100,000k.

          appx. 73,476,000 with money income UNDER $64,554 a year. (BOTTOM 60%).

          I spent 40+ of my years in that bottom 60%, and about 5 of my 54 over 100k.

          When you're in those bottom quintiles ... yawn. Life is different.

          For Tens of Millions of Americans, they look around and see - "hey, we aren't the Kennedy's or Trumps or Gates!"

          they tend to not see that for hundreds of millions of individuals and tens of millions of housesholds, life is different - different like -

          fix the car which I NEED for my crappy job, OR, let this tooth / gut ache go for another week or month -

          These RELATIVE affluents think / pray / hope they can keep gaming the system until they cash out - they sure as fuck ain't rocking the boat --

          AND, right there to keep them comfy, is a political cla$$ manipulating the shit outta 'em with

          'if we scare the middle we'll lose'!

          'dirty fucking hippies wreck solidarity and we'll lose!'

          quite the merry-go-round


          Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

          by seabos84 on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 08:36:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  This makes a lot of sense. Mike Lofgren, former (0+ / 0-)

          Republican wrote,"How the Republicans Went Crazy,
          Democrats Became Useless, and the Middleclass Got Shafted".

          Lofgren was on Bill Moyers, Moyers and Company and talked about Oligarchy.

          Moyer has on his site Lofgren's "Anatomy of the Deep State" about dark money corrupting our elections.
          I haven't read it yet but it is "food for the mind" in understanding  this very complex situation we are in.

          There is lots of good info out there to help Americas understand how and who is contributing to the weakening of our democracy.

          I believe that its up to us to pressure Democrats because they are  more"persuadable" to participate in reforming our corrupted government. Whining about our loses and giving up are not useful.

          I encourage everyone to "arm" yourself with useful information to talk to fellow Democrats about the problems we are facing and offering constructive ideas to fight back.

          Knowledge is power!

    •  You really think that something (0+ / 0-)

      Is popular just because it is emotional is bull.  These things are not mutually exclusive..populism and intelligence.

      Many people are on the left are intelligent and have long figured out it's not bankers versus the "wrong" people.

      It's mega corporations and wealthy bankers and their wealthy political ruling class friends against the serfs regardless of political party affiliation. It's the army of corporate lobbyists, the crony capitalism, regulatory capture, political capture etc...

      This whole posting cleverly  does what many here try to do often on this site...malign and bad mouth the American left ...and  malign the occupy movement unfairly. I may be emotional, but my anger isn't at " the wrong people" my anger clearly sits where my intelligence and research led me to the source of the problem. It is where the blame should lay, ..and that is squarely at those who have rigged the system because they have money and power to do so by co opting our democracy...and with those in government who continue to enable it because they are to weak to stand up against it and instead call those people savvy.

      Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. Elizabeth Warren Progressive Wing of political spectrum.

      by emal on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 01:16:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I did not mean to malign the American Left... (0+ / 0-)

        My broader point was built off of one that Thomas Frank made in "Pity The Billionaire", namely that after the economic freefall in 2008, the American electorate shifted to the right, rather than the left, as the 2010 Congressional Elections attest to.

        I mean, could you imagine an alternate history where The Great Depression and its attendant Hoovervilles and mass unemployment was met by the election of a Congress that would make Calvin Coolidge look like a liberal? The scale was smaller in 2008 than it was in 1929, but I believe it is a failure of all those to the left of center (from Third Way Dems to Socialists and Anarcho Communists) that a free market-driven, inequality-based recession resulted in swing right (a la the Third Reich and Mussolini's Italy, only much more muted) rather than the progressive reforms that came out of the Great Depression.

        I love the Occupy movement and am grateful for them for having almost singlehandedly jump-starting the national conversation on economic inequality, but, ultimately, I believe it is basically the leftist counterpart to the Tea Party Movement, where it has a very committed base, but can find little purchase with those who did not previously identify as very liberal and leftist. The biggest difference between the two is that the Tea Party has been extremely effective on using existing machinery within the GOP and our broader political system to achieve their ends and gain influence in Washington (despite the fact that it's eating the GOP from the inside out...they could give a sh*t). Occupy has certainly effected change in a number of areas, but normally they have used mass protests and public demonstrations as their key mode of pushing their agenda and have very little effect on the Democratic Party which is more Centrist than ever.

        I think that the response of the Occupy movement to Superstorm Sandy can be very instructive and (in my humble opinion) represents the best way for Occupy to branch out into sectors of the population who would otherwise never have thought of associating with them. As soon as Sandy hit, Occupy made sure that they were the ones out there, working with the leaders of faith-based communities and with neighborhoods in need to provide all of the basic needs that were not being fulfilled by a bureaucratically muddled Federal Aid system. That gave folks in New York and New Jersey a much different perspective on what the Occupy movement stood for and how they could help their communities and, with the rise in natural disasters that is coming about as a result of global warming, I think movements like Occupy can expand their base by--and this may sound cheesy--doing the right thing and showing their neighbors and fellow Americans that they are there for them and that they are there to do what government should do, but isn't

  •  Henry Ford And Midwestern Antisemitism (4+ / 0-)

    Recent diary on the origins of "liberals persecuting Christians" meme.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:58:06 PM PDT

  •  I just this week spent some time listening to the (6+ / 0-)

    radio in a place where reception was limited to western Nebraska, and eastern Wyoming/Colorado. I was searching for a weather report and I was far from any cell coverage for internet. An unending menagerie of right wing Glen Beck type radio shows. I'd disagree that all small farmers have been bought out by Monsanto. I see their farms dotting the prairies. The Democratic party has abandoned them.

    I still see the Democratic party as being by far my best bet, but I do feel like I am living in a different universe than my urban cousins who often wish to dictate to me and to all those small farmers living out on the plains.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:31:57 AM PDT

    •  Important comment/message re: "small farms"! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      R rugosa alba, TheFatLadySings

      I've been reading Wendell Berry, who was trying to teach/inform America 30-40 YEARS ago that the demise of the small farm -- primarily fueled by the "industrial age," its use of big business's national message of "efficiency," "profit" and "produce more" -- would lead to what we've been  experiencing since the 70s.  It's nothing more complex than the slow but steady erosion of the former "American way of life"...  which has been primarily caused and sustained by television advertising, altho all media have been involved.  

      I believe this phenomenon is even more influential than the effects of the Powell Memo.  Berry is regarded by many as a prophet.  His message, starting in the 60s, is eerily essentially the same as we're now seeing from all responsible quarters.

      Good luck to you in your support of small farming (including your farm, if that's appropriate), which seems to be making steady if slow progress in luring folks back to that way of life, and the resulting immense satisfaction brought to those who have realized what has happened to America, thanks to big business and all that that entails.  Of course, since small farming is not commercially motivated by profit, news of it has to be sought out  with particularity... but it's there, if one is interested in looking.

      How children dance to the unlived lives of their parents. Rilke

      by ceebee7 on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 11:49:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My county is an exception to the rule. (0+ / 0-)

      It is primarily composed of small farms and ranches but is staunchly democratic. It is about 70% pre-Mexican War Hispanic, 18% Native American and 12% Anglo. It is conservative on abortion but straight FDR democrats on other issues.

  •  Great diary! Populism has a fascinating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    history in America and I have long been intrigued by it. FWIW, I currently live in Thomson, GA, where Tom Watson grew up. His home, Hickory Hill, is a historical site on the west side of downtown.

    I remember growing up in western North Carolina reading everything I could on politics and I always came across the same trends regarding Southern populism; it was almost always tainted by racism and often ended up being co-opted by right wing forces.  

    Guns are never the principal in the commission of a crime, but they are usually an accomplice

    by MadGeorgiaDem on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:01:57 AM PDT

  •  Much of "Populism" is in the eye of the beholder. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We tend to view traditional Populism as "farmers vs the banks & railroads", and seek hopefully for signs that the pendulum has swung that way again.

    The problem is that there just aren't that many farmers left in the voting population. The ones that remain more likely to be unhappy with the EPA and OSHA than with their bank.

    The other branch of traditional populism lay in the industrial union movement. Today's Dems take union support for granted, but it hasn't always been so.

    Richard Nixon claimed support for his war policies from a vaguely populist "Silent Majority". The 'Pubs even orchestrated "patriotic" rallies by "hard hats for Nixon" to highlight middle-aged working-class disaffection with young college-educated anti-war protesters (although I think that racism motivated more union members to vote Republican in '68).

    Union workers, like farmers, are now a small percentage of the voting public.

    Even though we may share a common animosity toward Wall Street, there are many points of contention between the white working class voters and progressives: "jobs vs. the environment", "support-the-troops vs. stop-the-war", "affirmative action vs. why-can't-my-kid-get-a-scholarship?".

    These are largely false choices, expertly contrived by the right-wing noise machine, but it the reality we have to deal with.

    Following the civil-rights movement, the 'Pubs did a very good job of recasting white racial resentment into a socially acceptable antagonism toward "big government". Except for the occasional "Willie Horton" attack, this "crypto-racism" simmered below the surface of our politics - until the election of our First Black President.

    Hopefully, the "Obama Derangement Syndrome" demonstrated by the TeaPuppets will offend a generation of younger voters and bring them further in our direction.

    But no groundswell of "Populism" is going to come to our aid... we have to work for those working-class votes.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 09:34:16 AM PDT

  •  Blame democrats too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Democrats of the post-FDR era were a urban-rural populist coalition. Due both to the CRA and a falling rural population, this urban-rural coalition was not enough to win at the presidential level. Bill Clinton changed the party to focus on the suburban vote and essentially ignore the urban vote (who else are they going to vote for?) and the rural vote (not enough numbers to matter), and Obama has changed things back only slightly (mainly at the urban level). While there are certainly some suburban populists, typical populist issues are not a major draw for suburban voters.

    This made Democrats competitive at presidential elections, but not at the congressional level. Its now hard to win a Dem majority in the house and senate in a 50-50 election, even without unnatural gerrymanders.

  •  Wait, what? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ...there were no bold new reforms like Works Progress Administration or the Tennessee Valley Authority.
    I suppose healthcare reform doesn't count?

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 01:45:43 PM PDT

    •  Well, the diarist (5+ / 0-)

      considers it at muted success, not enough to counter the rabid attack of the last 30-50 years on the poor.

      To make a real solid populist statement, Obama would have to go single payer, prosecute the top bankers, close gitmo, end the drone strikes, and the higher minimum wage could be a game changer.

      So there's a bucket list, Barack, grab a mop!

      A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

      by onionjim on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 02:40:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nice bucket list, i'd be happy if he picked 2 n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        When the Republicans are in power they get what they want and when the Democrats are in power they still get what they want. At what point do people finally see it is just theater? ~ Me

        by fToRrEeEsSt on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:09:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I agreee (0+ / 0-)

        with every word - I just think it's silly to write off the ACA as "nothing."  It's also worth noting the President can't actually force the Tea Party to adopt every line of his agenda, even if he was infinity times awesome.

        Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

        by Boundegar on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 05:49:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's certainly progress (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fToRrEeEsSt, cama2008

      But it doesn't do much to change the fundamental flaws in our Nation's healthcare system.

      Sarah Kliff does a good job on WaPo's Wonkblog of explaining, briefly, why the big insurance companies aren't exactly sweating the ACA. Overall, the healthcare marketplaces don't cover too many Americans because all they really deal with are young folks who now have to have insurance or face a fine and previously "uninsurable" folks with pre-existing conditions.

      Don't get me wrong, I have benefited immensely from the Affordable Care Act. At 27, I was able to stay on my parents plan an extra couple years while I was in my early twenties and, since I have a mental health/substance use history that makes insurance companies give me the finger, I am only now able to get insurance because of the ACA.

      Why I believe the ACA is not in the same ballpark as the TVA or WPA is that they were actually broad, sweeping programs run by the US government. The Federal government directly proved 8 million Americans with employment and adult education and the like under FDR. Single Payer health care reform would have been this type of massive reform.

      Contrary to the protestations of the Right, Obamacare doesn't overhaul the health insurance system in America so much as tweak it. The tweaks are very welcome (for me at least), but they are part of a very centrist, Third Way-style piece of healthcare reform. After all, Nixon advocated for Universal Health Care and if your reform is more conservative than something Tricky Dick was stumping for, I wouldn't characterize it as being a "bold new reform."

      • error (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I should have included the Americans living in the nebulous area between what states used to have as the cutoff limit for Medicaid and the 138% of the Federal Poverty least, for those states that have bought into Obamacare and Medicaid Expansion.

        Wonderful, much needed reforms, but not really game changing on a National level.

      •  On this one, I have to disagree with you although (2+ / 0-)

        the diary is excellent. It's true that the ACA supports the insurance companies, but most Americans don't realize how frayed our health care infrastructure has grown. Single payer would not have been possible to implement because of enormous gaps in the system: no consistent IT infrastructure; lack of physical plant especially in blighted or rural communities; too few nurses, doctors and dentists to name a few. Problems in implementation would have been blamed on Single Payer, not on our degraded infrastructure. In fact, most Americans seem not to know that our medical infrastructure is as degraded as our energy grid.

        The ACA goes a long way toward creating the culture of cooperation needed among health care providers in communities to repair the infrastructure. it rebuilds the clinic system, puts IT in place and forces hospitals to support the community safety net. Many of the changes are built into the payment structure which incentivizes cooperation among providers.

        The ACA is a huge change because it will cause Americans to expect access to quality health care, will plug infrastructure gaps, and will build the culture of cooperation necessary to throw out the parasitic insurance industry.

        It is a huge systemic overhaul. My job is to build health systems in a rural underserved community and I am already seeing a dramatic difference.

        •  This is useful background. Let us know when (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Alexandra Lynch, Boogalord

          ...the infrastructure permits us to push for a federal public option or single payer.

        •  Three questions I'd love your input on... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          And these are just ACA-based and not related to the Single Payer discussion.

          1. How are we going to serve the mentally ill and substance abuse communities once we add however many millions of folks that are going to be covered by Medicaid and (if it's ever truly enforced) all of the people with newfound access to mental health services due to the Dominici/Wellstone Mental Health/Addiction Equity Act, considering we were already struggling pre-ACA?

          2. How do we get the AMA to stop restricting the number or accredited medical schools and the number of applicants to those school so that we can actually have enough doctors to deal with our burgeoning healthcare system?

          3. How do we get medical school graduates to come to smaller, rural healthcare clinics instead of flocking to big cities and massive medical centers?

          I have a number of friends who live in rural Mississippi and West Virginia (anecdotal evidence alert!) and they've told me many times that there is an intelligence/education gap that has formed that means anyone with the ability and means to go to graduate or med school ends up leaving and never coming back (one person I know called it "reverse Darwinism"). Apparently a lot of the Doctors in these rural areas end up being imported to the US from another country like India or Ghana or what have you, because they're the only ones willing to work there and the shortage of physicians means that those grads that get through the ringer of Med School have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to where they choose to practice.

    •  It would have if (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch

      the ACA was not just a giveaway to the insurance industry.  Dems get the blame for that also and deservedly so.

      •  It was and it is.... (0+ / 0-)

        ....but it had to be, so long as single-payer was off the table. The ACA has a lot of reasonably tough reforms and price controls on the insurance industry. In order to actually get them to cooperate and in order to make the system actually work, the mandate was necessary. Otherwise, everything else collapses.

  •  Excellent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch, linkage

    Well-researched and well-crafted.   Very good work.

    In an old diary of mine, I wrote:

    "FDR cited four [four freedoms], but we don't need to stop there.   What liberals can adopt, and repeat every day to friend and foe alike, is that government is a useful instrument in enabling every man and woman to pursue happiness, on his or her own terms, just as President Kennedy said we should: by achieving  "the full use of your powers along lines of excellence."

  •  1776 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There's a fantastic line in 1776, though I'm not sure whether it's based on something from the time period (as parts of the show and movie are) or if it's based on the sentiments of the early 1970s, even before the current round of Republicans.  John Dickinson, who in the show is framed as the principal antagonist, says:

    "Most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor."

    It's that possibility and reality that are used by conservatives- the claim that if only some new thing (often minorities) wasn't around, folks (poor members of the majority) would be in their rightful, powerful place.

  •  Thank You - N/T (0+ / 0-)

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 07:30:00 PM PDT

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