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The Myth Of Libertarian Populism, The Dream Of Fluidarity

The GOP is spinning a hopeful tale about a return to dominance in the US, but the demographics are against them in profound ways. They have become — for all intents and purposes — a party divided amongst itself, one that has chased away all the moderates, and has no one in a position to appeal to the center.

Paul Krugman weighs in against their newest fantasy — libertarian populism — which is an effort to sugarcoat the same old pill they have been peddling for years, and somehow use that to pull the so-called “missing white voters” — downscale, rural whites from the North — to come back to the polls and vote Republican. One of the biggest problems is that those missing whites are missing their food stamps, which the GOP is taking away. 

Paul Krugman, Delusions of Populism

More than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment insurance are white. Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. For example, in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white. Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites, but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent.

So when Republicans engineer sharp cuts in unemployment benefits, block the expansion of Medicaid and seek deep cuts in food stamp funding — all of which they have, in fact, done — they may be disproportionately hurting Those People; but they are also inflicting a lot of harm on the struggling Northern white families they are supposedly going to mobilize.

Which brings us back to why libertarian populism is, as I said, bunk. You could, I suppose, argue that destroying the safety net is a libertarian act — maybe freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. But populist it isn’t.

The true issue is a deep cultural divide between the extreme right GOP and the rest of the country, which ranges from libertarian to liberal. 

The Earth and its resources are treated as spoils by the powerful, who will use all the powers they have to continue the ruinous policies of the past. But the Earth must be reconsidered as a shared commons, and our principal purpose must be to move from the shambles of our current economic and geopolitic systems to a new order, based on sustainability and universal human rights.

However, we are unlikely to see a populist movement, today, in the US, especially among poor whites. One of the impacts of the modern paradox is that most people self-identify with the rich. The American mystique is that we are all middle class, only a few steps away from being a millionaire. This thinking persists in spite of 30 years of increasing inequality and the largest stratification of wealth in the advanced economies of the world. Upward mobility is increasingly a myth.

As a result of craning their necks to look up at the lifestyles of the rich and famous, which fill the magazine covers in the supermarket check-out lines, poor people avoid looking at the people standing beside them, in their neighborhoods. Instead they buy some lottery tickets and dream about what they’d do with a few million. We have no solidarity because we don’t see ourselves as ‘we’. Each American sees themself as an individual, outside of any demographics, ‘temporarily unwealthy’, a future millionaire.

So we aren’t marching, chanting, or demanding work, action, justice.

My hope is that something else, something new could happen. In the industrial age the solidarity of the working class opposed the oligarchy of capitalists. So, in a post-industrial era, can the fluidarity of the precariat oppose those who have made our lives precarious?

We aren’t in a time when class, race, and sex are forgotten. Far from it. But we may find ourselves in circumstances where the foundation of our life on Earth pushes other considerations to one side.

The Earth and its resources are treated as spoils by the powerful, who will use all the powers they have to continue the ruinous policies of the past. But the Earth must be reconsidered as a shared commons, and our principal purpose must be to move from the shambles of our current economic and geopolitic systems to a new order, based on sustainability and universal human rights.

The GOP — even with libertarian populist mumbo-jumbo — are not going to take us there. I am not sure I am hearing that from any Democrats, either. We are hearing only small-bore arguments about divisive issues, and that satisfies the stalling of progress, and that stall is what the powers-that-be are after.

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  1. marbleflakes reblogged this from emergentfutures
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  3. bsoist reblogged this from stoweboyd and added:
    EXACTLY!!!
  4. sflexplorer reblogged this from stoweboyd and added:
    Interesting view
  5. readinglist32 reblogged this from stoweboyd and added:
    The Myth Of Libertarian Populism, The Dream Of Fluidarity The GOP is spinning a hopeful tale about a return to dominance...
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