This article was submitted to us by The Gentleman Punk.
Hello out there, some of you might remember me, others surely won’t, but I was one of the first guest writers here back in 2012, and while my career has kept me away from blogging for some time, I figured now was as good a time as any to jump back in with my regained freedom, especially since there is so much controversy to delve in to.
With the paradoxically shocking and seemingly inevitable victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election, there is a lot of discussion on what it means? Have Americans embraced hate as some on the left say? Is he the leading edge in a new wave of anti-establishment fervor as some entrenched political figures ask? Did he buy his way to the white house? How will he preside?
Those questions vary from being laughably stupid to surprisingly worthwhile, frankly, but I’m not going to address them. I’m a cranky libertartarian who usually just wants other people to stay out of my business. As such, my biggest concern is if this is an overwhelming victory for populism. Populism you say? But Donald Trump is a billionaire real estate mogul from a wealthy family, how can he be the populist choice? And what’s so bad about populism?
Well, on the latter mark, populism is a bad thing because it promotes group-think, ideologies based not on ideas but group identity. If you’ve ever looked in to crowd psychology, and especially if you have read The Crowd by Gustave Le Bon you know how stupid, irrational and violent group-think can make people.
Do I think the U.S.A. is in danger of becoming a nation of the mob? Not really, but that is moderated by my inherent distrust of groups, as a libertarian I value self-rule over everything else. I don’t want groups of people imposing rules needlessly on my actions, so long as my actions do not harm others. If groups of people try to impose rules on me that I didn’t agree to I am really willing to invoke the 2nd amendment and start harming others though.
On the first issue… Donald Trump was the populist in the general election because he spoke like a common man and spoke to the common man’s concerns. “Grab them by the pussy” damn near became a rallying cry for the average man and even some women, because it is the sort of crass locker room talk you can imagine coming from an old friend or maybe a relative after one too many beers.
Hillary Clinton on the other hand seemed to stumble in her speech if she tried to speak informally, she sounded like a politician and a member of the elite. Besides tone there was the issue of substance, and while Trump did a good job most of the time on talking about jobs, immigration and terrorism, Clinton tended to ramble about the environment, vagaries of foreign relations and identity politics, the domain of the white tower academic intellectual.
While I do think that some of Trump’s stated positions, most of them if I’m being honest, are better for the nation it worries me because he won not based entirely or even mostly on arguments. He won mostly by getting other people to identify with him. He got them to think of him as part of their in-group.
I’ve gone over some of the reasons group think is bad, but the worst is that a movement based on ideas can be studied, correspondance can be shared, and I never have to see another person. Populist movements almost always involve meetings, public events, and other people. Here’s hoping our next election focuses more on ideas than personalities.