Populism has a nice ring; ‘will of the people’ and all that good stuff. So, why doesn’t it ever work? Not even in backward nations? Populism is disastrous in a nation as complex as the United States in times as complicated as these. There’s a reason that it never turns out well. Populism feeds off people’s need to believe, their resistance to thinking and learning, and, is invariably nurtured by ignorance. Knowing this, some politicians, when seeking votes, pander to the voter’s ignorance. When this pandering amount to the bulk of their campaign, a politician becomes known as a populists.
When the founders pondered on all this, their solution was a representative form of government; one where the people chose representatives to deal with the complexities beyond the ken of the common man. Back then, most Americans were functionally illiterate. The founding fathers’ chosen means of addressing this issue was brilliant. All things being relative, in today’s highly complex world; the ken of the common man ’tis relatively about the same as it was back then.
Still, every few years, here, and around the world, populism raises up, runs amok with disastrous consequences for a while; then fades away. Not always. Too often, it destroys the country.
It seems that societies are most vulnerable to embracing populism when the people are stressed. Stressed by such as social upheaval, an unstable economy, …. In such times, people can cast about for something, someone to believe in. Huey Long, Jim Jones, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Donald Trump, all offered the populace, something to believe in during changing, unsettling, times. They offered simple answers.
Ours are indeed changing, unsettling times, …, challenging times. Here and around the world, we see people displaced or abandoned by climate change, economic change, and, to an extent as a consequence of one or both these, demographic change. We see the consequences of overpopulation; of our history. For many, it is all too challenging. Unable to understand, some cast about for simple answers. Again, some politicians are all too willing and ready to offer up simple answers. The problem is, there are no simple answers.
In all probability, it will take years to sort out all that is going on in America, in the world, just now. There’s great probability and a more than good possibility that it is more than one thing; that many of these problems are caused by a combination of things. Some push back is to be expected as we become a more multicultural Nation. The legacy of the south extends beyond racism — religion and the associated resistance to change play a big role in the region’s politics. After all these years, mendacity, epitomized by the likes of Mo Brooks, AL, still abounds throughout the region. Now, and for more than 35 years, the nation has been jerked around by southern republicans, nee, southern democrats, and the right wing media. These are two things we must stand up to as a Nation.
Several Constitutional flaws have stood out during these times. The Electoral College, the inadequacy of Article I, Section 5 in re the structure of the two houses of Congress, the absence of means and procedure for vetting presidential candidates for fitness for the office, inequality of representation inherent the Senate, allowance for gerrymandering, …, come to mind.
Can never be done? How long is never? One-thousand years? One-hundred years? Ten years? Somethings have to be done; else the Nation falls. There really isn’t a choice. As in philosophy, if it doesn’t extend, it isn’t valid. These flaws do not extend.
Democracy is complicated. To understand how democracy works one needs to think on and be able to understand all its complexities; to do so, one needs to study on and be taught about it. Democracy is not simple; it is not a simple answer to anything. That is why democracy is often under threat in time of stress, and the subsequent outbreaks of populism. But, to coin a phrase, it is far better than any known alternative; especially populism.
Not everyone needs to understand democracy for it to work, but a majority does need to believe in democracy for it to work. The Jan 6, 2021, Insurrection was not about democracy. It was an abandonment of, a direct challenge to, democracy by the ‘my way or the highway’ crowd. Opportunistically done in the name of populism. The whole idea behind our Constitution, our democracy, was to provide a peaceful means for change; an alternative to rebellion and insurrection.