I think this is about right…. (accounting for Right populism)

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by Neil Godfrey

The ascent of Right populism is a direct consequence of the emergence of a profound crisis of political representation all over the West; the politics of identity erected as a new mantra; and the overwhelming power of social media, which allows – in Umberto Eco’s peerless definition – the ascent of “the idiot of the village to the condition of Oracle.”

Escobar, Pepe. 2018. “Future of Western Democracy Being Played Out in Brazil.” Information Clearing House. October 9, 2018. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50409.htm.

In the same article he refers to a sentence in Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky:

It is only when the threat of popular participation is overcome that democratic forms can be safely contemplated.

And that reminds me of a set of essays I was required to study many years ago, the Federalist Papers. Number 10 by Madison has always stuck in my memory. In order to guarantee the privileged property status of the wealthy elites against the interests of the larger public it was decided that the ideal form of government would be “representative democracy” over a very large population. The idea was to guard against “participatory” democracy. The “system works” as long as the reality or the illusion can be maintained that the “representatives” represent the public rather than those in possession of the wealth and power.



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7 thoughts on “I think this is about right…. (accounting for Right populism)”

  1. Just what is the politics of identity? Here in the US the politics of white identity has reigned throughout our history. Protestant identity also prevailed until very recently, when it has merged into Christian identity. It seems that identity politics has only become problematic when it embraced minority interests.

  2. But keep in mind that in America at least, the American right has political power greatly disproportionate to their public support. The problem we have in America isn’t “too much democracy”, it is far too little of it. American policy would be vastly more progressive if we had actually democracy, either 1 person 1 vote for representatives or just direct democracy.

    Our system is so skewed it’s insane.

    See my article here: http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/stolen_election.htm

    Most Americans actually vote for center left candidates, and have for the past 20 years, but overall right wing candidates win. This has to do with how our system is structured, to give disproportionate power to rural areas and how voter disenfranchisement is perpetrated to discourage and prevent voting by moderate and left leaning voting blocks.

    Our system favors voters who are older, suburban and rural, white, and wealthy, and puts obstacles in front of urban, poor, working class, minority, and young voters.

    So its a triple pronged attack, whereby center/left voters have obstacles to voting, and even when they do vote, their votes tend to count for less because the votes of people living in rural areas count for much more, whether it be for president, senate, or in the house of representatives due to gerrymandering. And even once we get past those hurtles, then we have the fact that whoever is elected is held hostage by the donor class, which is the wealthy elite who basically make it so you can’t get anything done or have any chance of re-election without catering their desires.

    So anyone who says that our problem is “too much democracy” is full of nonsense. The American system, at least, is not democratic at all. It’s an entirely anti-democratic system, and honestly I would like it if international NGOs would stop classifying America as a democracy. America is not a democracy in any sense of the word.

    In a democracy policy should reflect the will of the majority, with the exception of of where that will infringes on the rights of individuals. But in America our policies don’t reflect the will of the majority at all. When you look at polls on policy you see that overwhelming majorities support programs that are routinely called “politically unviable”. In any ssytem when policies supported by 70% of the population are “politically unviable”, that’s not a democracy.

    1. Very true. We need to get rid of the electoral college and the allocation of two senators for every state, no matter the population. Unfortunately both require constitutional amendments and those are very difficult to enact.

      1. There is a workaround for the Electoral College, though it requires many more states to get onboard. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement by those states that have passed it to award their electoral votes to the candidate that has won the popular vote. About 1/3 of the required votes worth of states have signed onto this agreement.

    2. If you’ve ever heard the “America is a republic, not a democracy” meme from right-wing concern trolls, this is what it points to: a fundamental mistrust of the majority, which now is more and more a color-coded statement on top of class statement.

  3. Reality or illusion, the system cannot work if most of the public believes it is not working.

    And it looks to me as if that is exactly where we are. You don’t have the consent of the governed if most of the governed are convinced, correctly or not, that they have been cheated.

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