Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Populism.

pop·u·list (n.) \ˈpä-pyə-list\

1. a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people
2. a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people

Since the mid-1990s, so-called "populist" moments in North American politics have had one particular flavour: reactionary conservatism. The Reform Party in Canada, the Tea Party in the US and the Common Sense Revolution in Ontario were all, to some degree, populist — or, at the very least, a very vocal minority had their enthusiasm capitalized-upon by a political party willing to expand the sentiment to the wider electorate, for political gain. (See: Manning, Preston; Palin, Sarah; Harris, Douchefuck.)

Well, these days, there's a populist fog a-brewin', and it's the Occupy X movement. It's vague, but as Matt Taibbi suggests, that may not be such a bad thing at this juncture. To catch populist lightning in a bottle lately, you've had to be organized, fast and relentless... which pretty neatly describes today's neoconservative machines.

But this thing... it defies easy explanation, and that might serve it well, so long as they keep playing the media's game. The way to engender support is not to smash windows — I hope the protest movement has learned this by now, Black Bloc-types included — but to boil your key ideas down to a concise message which you can use as a lever to pry open the broader discourse. Remember "Yes We Can"? It was a little echo-y, but it got a black dude elected in the US of A, so maybe there's something to that tactic.

At any rate, it's going to be interesting to see how this all goes forward. I think the idea of 99%/1% is a great, short, punchy way to get the basic point across. The question is, can this rabble coalesce around some basic, tangible changes they want to see? I sure hope so.

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