Here’s liberal George Packer, writing in the New Yorker:
Populism [demands] simple answers to difficult problems. It’s suspicious of the normal bargaining and compromise that constitute democratic governance. Populism can have a conspiratorial and apocalyptic bent—the belief that the country, or at least its decent majority, is facing imminent ruin at the hands of a particular group of malefactors [i.e., politicians].
[Many] have won the Presidency by seeming to reject or rise above the unlovely business of politics and government. Trump takes it to a demagogic extreme. There’s no dirtier word in the lexicon of his stump speech than “politician.”Please note: Packer’s “normal bargaining and compromise” takes place among an elite of Democrats and Republicans to which average people feel no connection whatsoever.
And here’s conservative Bret Stephens, sounding off in the Wall Street Journal:
a party that is supposed to believe in the incomparable awesomeness of America thinks we are losing the economic hunger games to the brilliant political leadership of . . . Mexico. [A] movement that is supposed to believe in economic freedom doesn’t believe in the essence of economic freedom: to wit, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor.The “party” to which Stephens refers is Stephens’ very own Republican Party. Ah despair, Trump is thy name.
Personally, I don’t believe that the masses can successfully overthrow a united elite. One has to have at least a piece of the elite on one’s side. Hitler had the Reichswehr and many industrialists. Lenin had intellectuals and part of the army. Trump, by himself alone, is rich, but not THAT rich.
So confronted by Trump’s rise, I am calmer than Packer and Stephens. I believe the Trump phenomenon stems from real issues, including the elite’s failure to take care of the economy and bring prosperity to our working class. Trump is right about our porous border and our failure to track down visa overstayers, right about the disconnect between Washington and the country, right about the meritocracy's anti-democratic nature, right to harp on how political correctness attempts to attach votes of those dependent on government to the nation’s liberal elite.
Packer wants Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to work together. We already know what that means to progressives: “conservatives, listen to your intellectual superiors, and gracefully accept your junior status in the ruling elite.”
Stephens argues for the unfettered free movement of goods and labor, even as ordinary people believe cheap goods and cheap labor are taking jobs away from them. This is a real problem, one Marco Rubio, among others, treats seriously.
The average American isn’t responsive to the Bret Stephens/Wall Street Journal/Mitt Romney agenda bringing globalization with all its consequences to Main Street. The elite-masses disconnect helps explain why elite Republicans are linked to elite Democrats as the problem, not the solution.
And why we must deal with the Trump phenom.