Tucker Carlson finds populism. Can he set America ablaze?

Summary: Last week on Fox, Tucker Carlson said things unmentionable on our major media. This was different than his (& Fox’s) standard conservative rhetoric. It was populism, a spark of which might set America’s politics ablaze.

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I have grown despondent about the ability of America to reform. The 1% is ascendant. Our Left and Right fringes have gone bonkers. The Left-Right spectrum no longer reflects our real divisions, instead serving to divide us into futile fragments. But our greatest foes are our apathy and passivity. Even our growing peril has not aroused us to effective political action – just louder food-fights.

But change is coming in places I do not watch, on the virtual “street” where mass movements are born. But Dalrock (who I recommend for your reading list) does. He spotted a burst of real populism in the mass media, the first I have seen in decades. It is a rabble-rousing rant like those Samuel Adams gave on the streets of Boston in 1770 (my style aspires to be more like that of John Adams). Listen to the full rant. He hits all the buttons needed to create a mass populist movement.

Tucker Carlson: our America’s first famous populist?

See the video and transcript at Fox. I urge you to watch or read it. Carlson had already been punished for violating liberal pieties: twenty corporations have pulled their advertisements. But advocating populism is seriously transgressive. The reaction was swift. Now, as always, the great and wise condemn any signs of populism.The Feminists at HuffPo were indignant. Some of the conservatives at National Review leapt to defend the 1%. Dalrock gave an apt summary.

“Last week Tucker Carlson broke a carefully guarded conservative taboo and called out our elites for their role in destroying american families. Much of the reaction has been a predictable demand to stop holding our elites accountable and get back to blaming the working class, especially white working class men, for not being elite.”

For example, Jim Gergaghty gave the usual right-wing nostrums as rebuttal. But my favorite is this by David Bahnsen.

“Tucker fully knows that he has not accurately portrayed the entire story of what ‘private equity’ means in the American economy, or what a corporation is supposed to mean in a dynamic economy.”

Bahnsen throws chaff into our eyes, assuming we don’t know the deeds of private equity funds (our age’s “robber barons“, as seen here, here, plus a thousand other articles) and lawless corporations (our “malefactors of great wealth“). It is an ancient and effective tactic. It deserves no respect at this late date.

“‘Nay, Éomer, you do not fully understand the mind of Master Wormtongue,’ said Gandalf, turning his piercing glance upon him. ‘He is bold and cunning. Even now he plays a game with peril and wins a throw. Hours of my precious time he has wasted already. ‘Down snake!’ he said suddenly in a terrible voice. ‘Down on your belly!” {From Tolkien’s The Two Towers.}

But not all conservatives followed the proper narrative, as Dalrock says, “blaming the masses for the results their own policies had created.” Brad Wilcox wrote at The Atlantic about What Tucker Carlson Gets Right:

“Just as Carlson suggested in his monologue, conservatives need to think more seriously about the role that contemporary capitalism, public policy, and culture have played in eroding the strength and stability of working-class family life. Americans share a collective responsibility for solving some of our most pressing social problems – and elites need to come to acknowledge their personal responsibility for bridging the class divide that has emerged on so many fronts.”

Dalrock explains why this defection from the narrative is significant, at least as a beginning.

“Wilcox is one of the elites shaping national policy on marriage. In the past he has been (mostly) reliable in blaming men and arguing that what we need is not to discard the new legal and social model of marriage that works only for the elites, but for the working class to become elite so the new model will work for them too. For Wilcox to end up even halfheartedly on the wrong side of the wedge Carlson is driving between conservative elites is very dangerous for the status quo.”

Our elites, in both their left and right flavors, know that populism might spread like wildfires do in America’s West. A century of fire suppression has allowed a massive accumulation of tinder, so a spark can ignite an inferno. Fifty years of pressure on America’s workers has built up incredible social pressure. Populism is a potential spark that can vent this pressure outside the channels that keep the public divided and weak. Our elites will do whatever they can to suppress it. They try to discredit it with labels – “racist”, “ignorant”, “sexist.” They associate it with dark aspects of our past. They give us faux populists like Trump to discredit populists.

There is an obvious analogy in history. In 1789 the Estates General convened in France to address injustices that threatened to capsize the State. France’s elites offered the commoners almost nothing to alleviate the pressure. This tactic did not end well for France. Let’s hope our elites are wiser.

Dalrock has done some brilliant analysis of Carlson’s rant and the responses to it. I will post about this tomorrow. The reaction to Carlson’s rant might be the most important political event of 2019. More important than the government shutdown. Than the debates about the wall, and the hundreds of food-fights that occupy our headlines.

Conclusions

“Hegel says somewhere that all great historic facts and personages occur twice, so to speak. He forgot to add: ‘Once as tragedy, and again as farce.’”
— Opening line to Karl Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1869).

Will this create another peasants’ protest movement, like Occupy, the Tea Party, and the Yellow Vests? Or will this spark start a serious populist movement? If it does, will it do better than France’s great popular revolt (or will Marx be right, again)? Might it unite with progressives to form an alliance, like the New Deal’s, capable of reining in the 1%? Americans will make the answer.

“Nothing is written.”
— Lawrence of Arabia, in the film.

About Dalrock

He is a married man living with his wife and two kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He is very interested in how the post feminist world impacts himself and his family, and uses his blog to explore these issues. See his website. Especially these posts ….

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Reforming America: steps to new politics, about populism, and especially these …

  1. Why the Left is missing the rising populist movement.
  2. Liberals look at Trump and populism, but see only their prejudices.
  3. Populism arises amidst workers abandoned by the Left, seeking allies.
  4. A Harvard Professor explains the populist revolt against immigration & globalization.
  5. Before Trump, top economist Joseph Stiglitz warned about globalization.
  6. An anthropologist reminds us why Trump rose & how populism will survive his crash.
  7. Populism is reshaping the West. Here’s what we can expect to get.
  8. How neoliberalism and globalization created the populist revolt in the West.
  9. Wolfgang Streeck explains the fate of Trump and the Trumpists.

Two books explaining what the news won’t say about populism

How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System by Wolfgang Streeck (Wikipedia).

What Is Populism? by Jan-Werner Müller. Populism is a global phenomenon.

How Will Capitalism End? by Wolfgang Streeck
Available at Amazon.
What is populism?
Available at Amazon.

17 thoughts on “Tucker Carlson finds populism. Can he set America ablaze?

  1. I just want to take this time out to highly recommend Tucker Carlson’s show. I watch it at least once or twice a week and I’m not at the typical Fox viewer—I’m a black American from a large American city, supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 (its complicated) and have a fair number of left-wing views.

    But Tucker is different. He has changed A LOT since his Crossfire days when he was getting (deservedly) humiliated by Jon Stewart. And, yes, his enemies are pressing their attack…but if anything he’s become even more scathing in the shows since his monologue.

    He is going to war—let’s see how long he can last. Godspeed him.

    1. dragnet,

      Thank you for that review! I don’t watch TV, and know nothing about Carlson.

      I stumbled upon one of his discussions about immigration (described in this post). Good stuff.

      1. A man after my own heart—I also don’t watch television. I watch his complete shows on YouTube—they are usually posted every evening.

  2. Bahnsen throws chaff into our eyes, assuming we don’t know the deeds of private equity funds (our age’s “robber barons“, as seen here, here, plus a thousand other articles) and lawless corporations (our “malefactors of great wealth“). It is an ancient and effective tactic. It deserves no respect at this late date.

    David Bahnsen’s father, the late Greg Bahnsen, would have never approved of his son’s apologies for our elite if he were alive. Greg Bahnsen, while wrong about theonomy, was a good man. David is a Newport Beach financial elite who likes to criticize Democrats while contributing to their success by shooting to the right. Let this be a lesson for all men with sons: the goal of their upbringing is not to make them elite, but to make them good. Tucker Carlson grew up under very similar circumstances in the wealthy beach town of La Jolla but cares more about being a good man than an elite one.

    Our elites, in both their left and right flavors, know that populism might spread like wildfires do in America’s West. A century of fire suppression has allowed a massive accumulation of tinder, so a spark can ignite an inferno. Fifty years of pressure on America’s workers has built up incredible social pressure.

    As our elites tell us, this is a Proposition Nation, not a country with borders, language, customs, and people. Our God is money. The only thing holding it together is economic activity, which is extremely weak glue. Should our finances turn south, the elites have a real problem on their hands. They’ve done everything in their power to worsen our finances to enrich themselves.

    I have sources that tell me that Carlson’s writers read these blogs. I bet they read Dalrock. I know they were reading another forum I used to comment at.

    Let’s all pray for Tucker and his family and writers.

    1. Bryce,

      Nicely said. Thank you for the additional color about Bahnsen!

      Interesting times might lie ahead, with almost unlimited promise and peril.

  3. A lot of that economic message is Elizabeth Warren’s message. And yet my guess is Carlson does his best to spread misinformation about her like the rest of the right wing media.

    1. Robbie,

      “And yet my guess is Carlson does his best to spread misinformation about her like the rest of the right wing media.”

      And vice versa. I assume you also intended to mention that (i.e., Warren and the Left won’t be mentioning that Carlson echos many of their beliefs).

      Few of our behaviors better serve the 1% than our fragmentation. Populists and progressives have many shared beliefs. This was obvious during the 2016 election, when the Left declared Trump to be Hitler – but some unblinkered journalists noted that he said much with which the Left agreed. See Molly Ball’s analysis at The Atlantic: “What Trump and Sanders Have in Common.” See more evidence here.

      As I said in this post (btw – did you read it?), only together can they rein in the 1% – as they did together in the New Deal coalition.

      1. Dalrock,

        That’s a powerful point. In 2003 Warren was a Harvard professor. She published a book, written with her daughter: The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke.

        This points to a dark factor I’ve only lightly mentioned: both Left and Right have gone bonkers. The Democrats have moved further Left, and gone more bonkers than the Right. A coalition like the New Deal might no longer be possible. Which is why I put such emphasis on the need for the rest of us to get politically involved. Neither Left, Right, nor superheroes will save us.

  4. When I read the screed cited above, I thought to myself “this reads much like a FM post.”

    I will wait before declaring this is the first crack in the ice– but most Republicans I know already love Tucker. I don’t think he would have much problem finding an audience even if FOX chucks him aside.

    1. Christopher,

      “this reads much like a FM post.”

      Many of the points made, yes. The style, no. Carlson is more like Samuel Adams, often called Father of the Revolution (for his key role at the start). I try to emulate John Adams, his very different cousin.

      “I don’t think he would have much problem finding an audience even if FOX chucks him aside.”

      Yes, he could stay an info-tainment star. There is a big market for political rants that excite American couch potatoes, giving them a feeling of “involvement.” History is made by people who inspire others to act. Time will tell which Carlson seeks to become.

    1. Jako,

      “Is capitalism compatible with democracy?”

      For 150 years the Left has been answering that with a decisive “no”. So far they have been wrong, because they are wrong. No “system” can make democracy work for an apathetic and passive people.

      In the For More Info section of this post you’ll see a link to one of Wolfgang Streeck’s books on this very subject: How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System. Here are three posts I’ve written about his work.

      1. Sociologist Wolfgang Streeck asks if Capitalism has a future.
      2. Wolfgang Streeck asks “How will capitalism end?”
      3. Wolfgang Streeck explains how to reform capitalism for a better 21st century.
      1. Larry,

        The “Left” in this case (W. Merkel) said it did work for a good time (1950-1970’s); however it can’t work in this recent form — socially dislodged financialized capitalism is incompatible with democracy.

        I think this “apathetic blob” has been a blessing for the P2B; we can’t buy enough time to mend that. And, Trump is indeed a proof of the disintegration and rot of the whole system.

        Thanks for the links! #3 shows a realistic perspective. Whether the reforms could really be implemented, that’s another story altogether.

      2. JaKo,

        “socially dislodged financialized capitalism is incompatible with democracy.”

        That’s a guess. I suggest not stating it as if God told you.

        “for the P2B”

        What is the “P2B”?

        “Trump is indeed a proof of the disintegration and rot of the whole system.”

        We have had a score of presidents in various respects like Trump. Or worse. Many in the 19th C, so we’ve lasted over a century since them.

      3. OK Larry,

        A guess, but pretty Well Educated Guess — time will tell.

        Powers That Be is easy, Power to Be aka P2B is more like “The Onion” version of that ;-)

        Miserable presidents, the Gilded Era etc — it took two world wars, one great depression and the mantra of communism to bring about a decent combination of capitalism and democracy.

        And, I’m really sorry that you can’t have another Ike, can you? I wish you could!

      4. Jako,

        “it took two world wars, one great depression and the mantra of communism”

        The New Deal resulted from one world war and the Crash. WWII and its aftermath extended it in some ways, and limited it in some ways (most esp the 1947 Taft–Hartley Act). But the New Deal was the key event. And that built on the achievements of the progressive movement.

        “I’m really sorry that you can’t have another Ike”

        What did Ike accomplish that was unusual?

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