The past dozen years of American politics (and to a large extent, of world politics) have been marked by populism, and it has been a failure in every way imaginable. It started with conservative politics in 2010, with The Tea Party, and in leftist politics in 2011, with Occupy Wall Street, and since then, it has been doubling down on failure. It has been a failure because it has not produced any better understanding of society and policy, it has been a failure because its allowed people who are objectively ignorant to come to power, and it has been a failure because it has made people meaner and dumber. And populism has even failed at populism because it hasn't brought a better understanding of the daily life and problems of common people into the spotlight. Yep, populism has been a failure, but it persists through some type of inertia, because it is now the ante for all conversations, and because somehow explaining everything as the work of "elites" has become the automatic explanation.

One question that might be asked: what exactly is "populism"? And the answer is, nobody knows, because every viewpoint is populism. Left, right and in-between. Populism isn't a position, as much as it is an attitude, specifically an attitude of resentment. Also, an attitude of being special: because only the speaker possesses the secret knowledge of the tricks that bankers/academics/the media/politicians/oil companies/the donor class/the Illuminati/lizard people/however ridiculous you want to be are up to. As mentioned, populism isn't a political position as much as it is a psychological sop where anyone who reposts a meme is now a galaxy brain thinker, above the common people. And also a member of the common people? Fuck it, I said none of this made sense.

There is one thing that you might be thinking: "Well, that might be true of some sorts of populism, but not mine! And mine is the type that people secretly believe in!", and if you are thinking this, you are wrong. But you aren't alone. I've noticed that most leftist populists, for example, after hearing screeds about how Hollywood elites want to turn our kids gay with critical race theory, will think to themselves: "oh, these people actually hate bankers and billionaires, and have just temporarily been brainwashed by Fox News". There is a kind of "You just haven't found the right strain, yet" logic to this: left-leaning people will watch their Aunt Karen post memes on Facebook about how we need to microchip the poors to make sure they don't bother decent people, and think to themselves "hmmmmm yes, we just need the right rage-baiting meme about "corporate greed" and Aunt Karen will swing to our position and start demanding fully automated luxury gay space communism, which the Dems, too beholden to the Donor Class, are too cowardly to advocate for!". One thing about populism is that everyone has a different vision of who "The People" are, and think other people will come around to their version. And of course, Populism doesn't care about people, just The People. Whatever version of Populism "wins" will end up excluding a lot of people who aren't The People.

So anyway, populism = failure.

So what is the other option? Probably a concern for the rights and well-being of others, reached through discourse and understanding. That very simple recipe will cure so many problems, the way that a tiny amount of ascorbic acid can do away with scurvy. It at least seems worth trying, rather than digging deeper into the pit of resentment.

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