Noah Smith asks how did Alt-right Nativism go Main Stream

This is a brilliant Twitter essay. Click the link, but I think it can be partly summarized with the first and last two tweets.

1/I noticed Brit Hume defending Tucker Carlson’s remarks about diversity today, and it made me think about how ideas go from the political extremes to the political mainstream. I kind of have a model in my head for how this process happens.

if media entrepreneurs like Bannon and Carlson had chosen to focus on things like kneeling football players or trade wars or MeToo, the issue of diversity might have been a side issue, and lots of people on the Right might be pro-immigration libertarians to this day!

20/Thus do media entrepreneurs harness the incredible power of oppositional, tribal thinking to control our minds and tell us what to believe.

I have three thoughts.
1) read Noah not me.

2) It is interesting that some people are so smart that they can overcome the twittyness of Twitter and write well using it as a platform and medium (see also @HeerJeet). Noah is careful to include a link in each tweet, so each point is supported by evidence (one can trust or click) and his typed text is an abstract of a longer essay. Also he has a valid point.

3) Of course he leaves things out.

He focuses on Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson. The idea (already perfectly summarized in his last tweet) is that conservatives can be made to argue for anything by provacateurs who provoke liberals into arguing against it. He notes that he left Trump out of it. I have to add two things.

His stream doesn’t mention Obama. I think it is clear that the election of a half Kenyan president provoked nativists. They basically said so. The also brilliant Ezra Klein explains here.

I would also mention the research of Theda Scocpal and students. They went to Tea Parties and talked to people. They noted that the kept hearing about illegal immigrants and not about deficits or bailouts.

I think most right wing Americans were nativists ten years ago. The conservative elite are opinion followers as much as opinion leaders. Another story about the mainstreaming of xenophobia is “I must catch up with those people because I am their leader” Ledru-Rollin 1848. Having presented evidence from 1848 that this is nothing new, I still want to suggest that new media make it more possible for ordinary people to guide the leaders with clicks and comments and such.

In conclusion, I suspect that, given the xenophobia of the base, the conservative elit mainstream was bound to follow. entrepreneurs in media and elsewhere find niches, that doesn’t meant they create them. After the jump I will make a strained analogy.

What about the mainstreaming on the left. I was thinking of Medicare for all, and now also the $15 minimum wage. In both cases, pollsters showed that most US adults support policy which the inside the beltway power elite considered radically left wing. What you hear now from Democrats who want to be elected president in 2020 (and really think they have a chance) is what one could have read a decade ago in the work of Ms median poll respondent.

For all three issues, elite opinion was a compromise between the views of ordinary people (fortunately in the case of xenophobia a majority of Republicans but a minority of US adults) and the views of the rich and concentrated interests.

So the “take our country back” Tea Party was presented as motivated by concerns about deficits (hardly anybody cares about the deficit but rich people who are sure that the necessary fiscal correction will cost them millions do). The minimum wage is frowned upon by elite non-economists who haven’t kept up with the literature. The insurance industry has been able to block reforms which are popular and which work in all other developed countries. But not forever.

Il El pueblo unido jamás será vencido also when the people are Volkisch

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