Two Bubbles That Went Pop: Reflections on the Manipulation of Populism
The Manipulation of Populism by Elitism
Ironically enough, Obama now gets to channel the populist Occupy spirit in fashioning his campaign for re-election against (in all likelihood) the spectacularly wealthy Mitt Romney. A web blurb from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says “Stand with President Obama: the top 1% Need to Pay Their Fair Share!” The Democrats are eager to portray Romney as “Mr. 1%” and to identify Congressional Republicans with “those at the very top.” Liberal and Democratic activists, columnists, reporters, and politicians revel in noting that Romney pays less than 14 percent on more than $40 million in mostly investment-based incomeover the previous two years. “He makes more in one day than most Americans make all year,” proclaimed the elite Democrat Gerald McEntee (president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO), on the liberal-Democratic Huffington Post last month. Entitled “Mitt Romney and the 1%,” McEntee’s column described the leading Republican presidential contenders Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, as “the candidates of the 1%, for the 1% and by the 1%” – as if Obama was not also such a candidate and not flying around the country raising vast sums of political capital from the nation’s financial elite at one push fundraising dinner after another.
The Democrats would certainly be campaigning against the Republicans along these anti-plutocratic lines even if Occupy had never emerged. Knowing well that the majority of the population has for some time been deeply displeased with the wildly disproportionate wealth and power of the corporate and financial Few, they are old hands at what the late and formerly left Christopher Hitchens once described as “the essence of American politics…the manipulation of populism by elitism. That elite is most successful,” Hitchens wrote in a 1999 study of! the Bill Clinton presidency: