Tuesday, January 8, 2008

“Populist” – the political label du jour

We are being told that John Edwards and Governor Huckabee are ‘populists’ and their campaigns for the presidential nomination of their parties are based on ‘populism’.

But I have some questions about that. What is a ‘populist’ and what does ‘populism’ mean? Does a ‘populist’ remain a populist forever; in other words, ‘once a populist, always a populist’? Is a populist who gets elected still a populist?

According to the recognized definition: "Populism is the political philosophy of the ‘Peoples Party’; that is, various anti-establishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the ‘common person’ rather than according with traditional party or parties ideologies".

The definition raises still other questions: how can a candidate for the nomination of a political party be "anti-establishment or anti-intellectual" and offer "unorthodox solutions or policies" that are not in accordance with the "traditional" ideologies of the party whose nomination the candidate seeks, and why would party members choose a ‘populist’ who does not conform to the philosophy and policies of their party?

Once a ‘populist’ is elected, then he or she becomes part of "the establishment". Therefore, a successful ‘populist’ candidate can no longer be a populist because the person leaves the ranks of the "anti-establishment". The elected populist can continue to be "anti-intellectual" but only if the person is not an intellectual or he or she would have to be against themselves.

So the final question is why in the world are candidates identified as populists? Perhaps the news media uses that description because they want to enhance the prestige of the candidate labeled a populist and thus make that person special and different, and somehow better, than opponents they would rather not win the election.

One thing the media has right though, Huckabee is sure offering "unorthodox solutions and policies that are not in accordance with the traditional ideology" of the Republican Party. Of course, the same cannot be said of Edwards, 'tax and spend' is the traditional policy of the Democrat Party.

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