by citizen k
Sun Oct 30th, 2005 at 10:11:57 AM EST
How is it that Jaques Chirac and George Bush, representatives of the aristocracy
have been able to run and win on populist themes?
How can Sarkozy get up and say of the socialists:
I understand why the people have turned against you," he said. "It's because you
forget the people. You don't talk like them, you don't understand them and you offer
no response whatsoever to what they experience on a daily basis."
Thomas Franks wrote a book about about the right wing in Kansas. He says
By "backlash" I mean populist conservatism of the kind pioneered in the Sixties by
George Wallace and Richard Nixon, perfected by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and
crafted into an entertainment form by Fox News. Instead of selling conservative
politics on economic grounds, it imagines conservatism as a revolt of the little
people against a high and mighty liberal elite.
Franks goes on to say:
There is no doubt that liberals bear a lot of the blame for the backlash. Back in
the Sixties and Seventies, Democratic Party leaders decided to turn their backs on
the working-class voters who until then had been the party's central constituency,
and to try to find a new constituency in groups like college students,
environmentalists, and so on. They called this the "New Politics," and it was a
terrible mistake. Among other things, it is one of the sources of the "liberal
elite" stereotype, in a historical sense. And while there have been numerous
Democrats who have tried to resurrect the alliance with the working class over the
years, the dominant, Clinton wing of the party clings to this failed strategy. They
essentially agree with the Republicans on economic issues, write off the working
class, and try instead to win the votes (and the campaign contributions) of
educated, professional people by taking liberal stands on social issues. Their idea
of politics is a war of enlightened CEOs versus backwards CEOs.
This strategy has been disastrous in the extreme. While stripping away any economic
reason for working people to vote Democratic, it has simultaneously played into the
"liberal elite" stereotype which is the Republicans' strongest weapon. The result is
what you see around you: Republicans talk constantly about class grievances, albeit
in a coded and inverted way, while Democrats never bring it up at all, desperately
trying to prove their "centrist" bona fides. What liberals must do to beat the
backlash, it seems obvious to me, is to resurrect old-fashioned, upper-case-P
populism, and to wage non-coded, non-inverted class war. They must at the very
minimum counter Republican appeals to social class with their own appeals to social
And this brings us the bar on the corner.
Let's take a look at this interview with Daniel Cohn-Bendit published in the British
Cohn-Bendit argues that the French left has refused to come to terms with the existence and predominance of the world market. This is the opposite of Franks who is arguing that the US liberals have become apologists for the world market, buthere are two very different analysts with two very different points of view, both agreeing with Sarkozy. Are they both dupes? Foolish retransmitters of right wing talking points?
The discussion takes place in the bar, where the patron announces he also took part
in 68. Here is a quote from the patron:
"... we still need a revolution in France. We should be
more like your country, like Britain. France will never succeed until we have the
right to hire and sack people whenever we like."