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The GOP's 2022 Midterm Strategy: A Demagogic Tour of Untruth
"Populism, literally, means speaking for 'the people.' In practice it means demagoguery."
Washington, D.C., January 4 2019: President Donald Trump, speaks to the media in the Rose Garden at the White House after meeting with Democrats to discuss the ongoing partial government shutdown. Courtesy of Shutterstock.
Republican Tours of Untruth
Doublespeak is a foul that ideally benches one in the game of politics. However, for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, that is not the case right now. After audio recordings were leaked showing McCarthy privately condemning the caucus and claiming to urge Trump’s resignation, McCarthy continued to engage in his own tour of untruth:
And this (sponsored by the media demagogues at Fox):
However, this is the consequence of a party that has been overtaken by demagogic forces.
To be clear, demagoguery has been a dark undercurrent of politics throughout our history and around the world. Though, there can be a reasonable balance struck. We can acknowledge the inevitable excesses of politics and we can strive to not have such rampant charlatanism concentrated in one political party.
The primary season for the 2022 midterm elections is kicking off and the Republican roster is just abysmal. In Nebraska, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor has been involved in a horrendous countersuit.
In Ohio, the primary has become a mudslinging contest between Republican hopefuls vying for a Senate seat. There have been outrageous and offensive theatrics by candidates.
After Trump endorsed J.D Vance (a former Never Trumper) the message seems to get scrambled:
Still, the most concrete example of how salient the demagogic incentives are within the GOP is the presence of executives and celebrities financing their own tours of untruth.
Mehmet Oz, the celebrity TV doctor, expressed his inner Trump during the Senate debates earlier this week. He alleges that the country can’t move on from the 2020 election and cozied up to the former president’s record.
Even Trump admitted to the way television has influenced the party:
Money in politics is obviously a big problem for Democrats too. But, the Democrats are not in a cult. They are in a multi-factional coalition that often breaks apart because of a reasonable diversity of ideas. But, they come together with a healthy respect for American democracy.
They have had many opportunities to prove this and have not:
To be clear, conspiring against America’s institutions is not just another opinion.
This Isn’t New
Demagoguery has been a factor in American politics throughout the land. It fueled the southern slave lords and was a tool for dividing labor throughout the reign of the railroad barons. It is used often to divide people by identity and income.
This happened a lot in the 1930s during a period of increased economic anxiety. As a tide of populism surged across America and was amplified by loud voices like Father Charles Coughlin and Huey Long, President Franklin Delano wrote in his personal letters:
I am fighting Communism, Huey Longism, Coughlinism, Townsendism…
BTW: Will Saletan at The Bulwark writes a great piece comparing the antics of Tucker Carlson to Father Charles Coughlin.
Like Coughlin, Carlson has spewed venom for years. And, like Coughlin, he has gradually made his treachery, nihilism, and bigotry unmistakable. If anyone still thought there was an innocent explanation for his behavior, Carlson’s latest monologue, delivered on Tuesday night, rendered such generosity indefensible.
But, the latter mentioned is Francis Townsend. He is known for “The Old-Age Revolving Pension Plan” which informed the “less-generous Social Security system proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Despite Roosevelt grouping Townsend in with Coughlin here (a bigot and antidemocratic voice), Townsend remained immensely popular until his death.
This can also be a quick case study on how rhetoric and politics toe a fine line that separates people’s hopes and people’s fears.
This is why politics - or civics - is such a great responsibility. People are given immense power over societal cohesion and health. Turning this oath into a self-aggrandizing process is one of the factors that led Rome to disaster.
After all, nothing’s new under the sun.
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