Thursday, April 27, 2023

Populism Without Civil Rights Is Fascism

Following Tucker Carlson's ouster from Fox News, two writers at the liberal publication, The American Prospect, wrote a piece lauding his so-called "populism." Here's the line that caught my eye:

Tucker’s willingness to challenge and mock ruling elites went alongside an obsessively nativist message that alienated viewers who might otherwise have embraced his populist perspective.

As an example of Carlson's "populist reflex," the authors pointed to a disagreement he had with Ben Shapiro in 2018 on whether the government should be able to restrict trucking companies from adopting autonomous vehicle technology to avoid potential job losses in the industry. 

Carlson was emphatic that a self-determining polity should be able to control its technological destiny, while Shapiro dithered about government overreach in the market.

“Are you joking?” Carlson responded when asked by Shapiro if he’d ban autonomous vehicles. “In a second.”

The fact that the authors saw this as proof of Carlson's populism indicates that they have completely ignored the rise of National Conservatism on the right. Matthew Continetti describes them as "post-liberals" (emphasis mine).

The post-liberals say that the distinction between state and society is illusory. They argue that, even as conservatives defended the independence of civil society from state power, the left took over Hollywood, the academy, the media, and the courts. What the post-liberals seem to call for is the use of government to recapture society from the left.

The poster boy for National Conservatives is Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban - they guy Carlson promoted as a model for America’s future. As a demonstration of what that would look like in this country, Orban has become the model for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.

There is a debate to be had about whether or not that has anything to do with "populism." But regardless of that, Rick Perlstein made the deeper point back in 2016 when calling out Matt Taibbi for lauding Trump's populism.

It’s an ignorance of a simple historical fact: Every fascist achieves and cements his power by pledging to rescue ordinary people from the depredations of economic elites. That’s how fas­cism works...

But guess what? Under fascism, economic protection for the goose accompanies dispossession of the gander. White people prosper in part because minorities suffer — whether, under Hitler, by taking away property from Jews, or as Herr Trump expects, by taking back ​“our” jobs from ​“them,” whether the them is immigrants or our supposedly duplici­tous trading partners.

There’s even a sociological term for it: herrenvolk repub­licanism.

I had to look that one up. The definition of "herrenvolk republicanism" is "a system of government in which only a specific ethnic group participates in government, while other groups are disenfranchised.

The bottom line is that populism without civil rights is fascism. 

This is why I've been so focused on exposing the truth about National Conservatism. It is, at heart, a fascist movement. It is important that we all recognize the way it has taken over the Republican Party and been embraced by some of the extreme left like the authors of that piece in The American Prospect - as well as Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. Even some classic liberals have suggested that Democrats can partner with National Conservatives on issues like monopolization. This is dangerous territory when it comes to protecting our democracy!


  1. 100% this. Populism is about resentment and self-interest, and sooner than later that will include resentments rooted in bigotry. Populists have no problem going there, and that's what makes them dangerous.

    1. Thanks, King B - I was going to reply much the same thing, but you said it more concisely. And thank you, Nancy. That one line - "The bottom line is that populism without civil rights is fascism." - will be with me for a while.

  2. I hadn't seen the piece entitled Inside Tucker's Brain until you linked to it. It concludes that people like Rod Dreher should, “align with and help to restore a true liberalism, which historically has been, for all its faults, the best model not only for guaranteeing freedom of speech and of religion, but also for taming the ravages of godless monopoly capitalism.”

    Dreher used to be Catholic, and is now Eastern Orthodox. Both of those religions consider homosexuality to be a sin. That view is no longer sustainable in Western nations, any more than the view that God was pro-slavery was sustainable after the American Civil War, or than prohibitions on usery were sustainable once the West developed capitalist economies. Religion will undoubtedly continue to thrive under liberalism, but it won't be Dreher's religion.

    In short, social conservatives are, by and large, losing under liberal democracy. You can't convincingly argue that social conservatives should continue to support liberal democracy without addressing that.


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