Populism, Left and Right
Why the establishment hates it
(AntiWar.com) -- by Justin Raimondo --The rise of an often militant right-wing populist movement – the tea partiers, the Ron Paulistas, the tenth amendment restorationists and the regionalists – has the powers-that-be in a tizzy. On the "progressive" left, we have Rachel Maddow sounding the alarm about hordes of armed militia types supposedly marching on Washington, in a populist version of Seven Days in May. The "brown scare" now energizing those who call themselves progressives is no longer limited to the familiar precincts of MSNBC and the Obamaite/limousine liberal wing of the blogosphere: now we have Bill Clinton giving voice to the Bizarro World McCarthyism that inspires the "left."
McCarthyism was the offspring of Senator Joseph "Tail-Gunner Joe" McCarthy, who carried out a campaign – some would say a witch-hunt – against employees of the US government he accused of being Communists or fellow travelers – that is, people who believed the government should run everything. Not just the insurance industry, and the auto industry, and the banking field – everything. While less than judicious in his accusations, by accusing a whole lot of people, McCarthy was often right, as the Venona revelations and other surprises from the KGB archives later proved.
I have long been of the opinion that the 9/11 attacks impacted with such physical and psychological force that they caused a rift in the space-time continuum, and the Bizarro-McCarthyism that has maddened the progressive left provides yet more validation of this theory. In Bizarro World, where up is down and right is left, we have witch-hunts against those suspected of harboring "anti-government" sympathies: that is, they are in favor of freedom – an obviously subversive concept, which must be ruthlessly exposed and suppressed.
A similar reaction is taking place, to a lesser extent, on the establishment (i.e. neoconservative) right. David Frum, the Bush speechwriter and co-author of the "axis of evil" catchphrase, has become the liberal establishment’s favorite interview subject because he now spends all his time attacking "right-wing extremism," most especially the explicitly libertarian elements of the tea party movement. He has set up his own movement, which might be called the "Scoop Jackson Republicans," and a Web site where one can go for regular denunciations of the tea partiers and pleas for Republicans to moderate their message – except when it comes to foreign policy, naturally enough. In that realm, it’s the same old Republican invade-the- world globaloney: Iraq was a "victory," Afghanistan is a necessity, and Israel must be defended and succored no matter the damage to demonstrable American interests.
This ostensibly conservative hostility to the latest expression of American populism is hardly surprising. One of the founding myths of neoconservatism is that populism, in all its forms, is always dangerous, as it is invariably a carrier of the anti-Semitic virus. All that constant guff we hear about "the "paranoid style in American politics" comes directly from the neocons in their earlier, "liberal" mandarin incarnation. The "paranoid" theme was popularized by the historian Richard Hofstadter and a claque of neoconservative sociologists back in the mid-Fifties and Sixties, who, in their classic anthology on The Radical Right, and other works, applied the sociological theories of the Marxist theoretician Theodor Adorno to the "problem" of fighting "extremism" in the postwar world. Adorno and his disciples took the classical Marxist theory of fascism as a phenomenon attributable to "the enraged bourgeoisie" and gave it a sociological-Freudian gloss...
The question of why now comes into focus if one notices the complete absence of any real form of left-wing populism. The genesis of the tea-partiers was the bank bailout, not the election of Barack Obama, and one would have thought that the takeover of the government by a few corporate giants might have provoked a hostile reaction on the left – but not in Obama’s America. Although both major party presidential candidates supported the bailout, and issued a joint statement to that effect, under Obama, the bailouts were expanded and are now being institutionalized under the rubric of "financial reform." The old-line anti-corporatist progressivism of the southern Bryanite "free silver" Democrats, the LaFollette brothers in the northwest, and the Midwestern variety represented by such figures as Senator Burton Wheeler – which was radically decentralist, and militantly anti-imperialist – has been completely supplanted by the modern super-centralizers who are in bed with Goldman Sachs and have no aversion to imperial adventures.
Blocked from finding any real expression on the left – except for some hand-wringing over "What’s the matter with Kansas?" – antigovernment anti-corporatist sentiments have found a comfortable home on the right. This combination our elites consider literally explosive, which is why Rachel Maddow is relentlessly trying to link "today’s antigovernment extremism" with the Oklahoma City bombing and the views of Timothy McVeigh.
The message coming from our liberal elites, and their neoconservative allies, couldn’t be clearer: if you’re an "antigovernment" extremist – a phrase that, in their view, is a bit redundant, since any and all "antigovernment" ideology is inherently extremist and violent – you represent a physical threat to the social order. To be against the government and its policies – and to call them "gangsters," as right-wing congresswoman Michelle Bachmann did – is to call for insurrection and terrorism, as Bill Clinton more than hinted at in his reply to Bachmann, in which he likened her and her supporters to McVeigh. Clinton even gave an Adorno-style diagnosis of Bachmann et al.: these are "profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”...MORE...LINK