Thomas Frank: Populism or Bust!

Thomas Frank: Populism or Bust!

22 thoughts on “Thomas Frank: Populism or Bust!

  1. if Bernie gets the job, he'll do the same thing as FDR did – that is, he'll save Capitalism.
    (this is not the intended outcome).

  2. Why do people vote against their own interest is the question that keeps Thomas Frank up at night. Maybe the answer is so simple that he cannot see it. Here is my take: I insist that we cannot bridge the gap between leftist and right-wing people (e.g. by New Deal-style economics) and that the left has to win the Culture War .

    1. We (the left) have to understand that there are people with a fundamentally different mindsets and "values" than us – to the point that what they call "values" looks like selfishness and oppression to us! Which should make us think: Very likely, they see our values in a similar manner. Of cause, we find that puzzling, since we fight for fairness, equality, universal human rights etc. The good in those principles should be evident. Seemingly, it is not.

    That is the reason why we still have this uphill struggle, even if we are supposed to win every election (if only on the basis that most people would profit from our policies). Which is not the case. And, unlike in the US, in Europe it is not a question of voter suppression and/or racism. (Voter suppression cannot have been the case in Brazil, either, since they made voting compulsory between the ages of 18 and 70, even if you live abroad.) So why is there not a broad, solid basis for "solidarity" and "fairness"?

    It is the old "nurture/nature" problem. Like with (most) issues, the answer lies on a spectrum. The people that may (!) never change may be further on the "nature" side, e.g. they feel strongly that a hierarchy, no matter how unfair and harsh, is the right way to build a society. And "hierarchy" is not confined to money or education, but goes all the way down: A poor man may still feels worthy, because he "ranks" above women, children and LGBTQ-people (in his mindset). (Or, if he is white, other races. Or, if he is Christian, people of other faiths. Etc.)

    Other people on the right are by "nature" less attracted to "conservative values" but heavily influenced by the "nurture" side. By their upbringing in their family, their education, the media (FOX "News" etc.), their communities (e.g. church). Those people could be easier convinced, but it is still a hard battle! Most people are "loyal" to their family and upbringing. Breaking e.g. with a family tradition of voting for the Republicans is quasi a sacrilege.

    We can reach out to the people who are more influenced by their surroundings, but should not invest too much precious time on the "true believers".

    2. But we should CONCENTRATE our efforts on a third group: People who generally agree with us already on many points (often economics OR social/culturally, but not on both). People who are nearly "there", but still have some biases, e.g. about women`s rights or LGBTQ-people. And THAT is the battlefield of the Culture War!

    We cannot leave those people to the right/Conservatives. But without winning the Culture War, those people will swing back and forth, more often than not going for the right/Conservatives than our side. One day, they vote for Obama, because he seems fresh and new and the Reps`s screwed the economy up. But the next day, they get lured – by their fears of gays getting too many rights, anti-abortionists shoving a fetus-shaped doll in their face, or someone complaining about trans people using the "wrong" toilet – towards the right again! Why is that so easy?

    Because the right/Conservatives heavily invested in Culture War propaganda! FOX "News" is just the tip of the iceberg. The right-wing propaganda machine was working for decades on the "public opinion". And there is no real counterweight to right-wing outlets. Taking women`s reproductive rights as an example: There is just a lukewarm defense of the right to legal abortions coming from the TV or radio. Nothing to counter the ludicrous claims and graphic images (mostly fakes) of bloody embryos, of fetus-shaped dolls and comparisons of abortions (in their "newspeak": "baby-murder") e.g. with the Holocaust.

    This goes for all Culture War issues: No politician or famous person, no news outlet, TV channel, radio station makes a campaign to lobby for our leftist "Culture War" issues. We do not talk them up, neither do we illustrated (and we should!) how inhumane and unjust things were "back then" when we did not have e.g. women`s right, when gays were persecuted and jailed for their sexuality etc.

    We do generally better on the topic of racism. But our neglect of tackling anti-women, anti-LGBTQ animus just meant that the right used those topics (instead of racism) to lure people towards their side. Gamergate, for instance, showed the way for a whole new generation: Misogyny and homophobia are not restricted to religious fundamentalists and conservative fuddy-duddies, young guys can also identify with it. After those guys got lured in by their (still socially acceptable) misogyny, they now often show their racist, xenophobic side, too. But it all started with the permissible idea of women`s inferiority (which is the basis of social conservatism).


    We should not waste our time with the "hard core" of the right-wing/conservative movement. We should instead address the wide number of people who are little interested in politics and have not entrenched themselves in right-wing propaganda. (If we can peel some right-wingers off in the process of reaching out to the "masses", that is a great bonus!). We should NEVER pander to the right. We should never try to lure them in by offering them e.g. a better economic system combined with our willingness to throw women, LGBTQ-people etc. under the bus. NO. That is (more or less) what the Nazis offered the average German.

    We have to concentrate our efforts on WINNING THE CULTURE WAR on the MASS OF AVERAGE PEOPLE, the many undereducated persons who got influenced by our media culture that gives more room to the sensational, loud propaganda from the right than to communicate the plain, "boring" fact that social progress (including women`s and LGBTQ`s rights) is a necessity to create a fair society.

  3. Really enjoy Thomas Frank. Think the domestic politics of US have to be put in context of the US international hegemony/empire. Biggest threat to US hegemony would be a leftist populist rise.

  4. No Black candidate for high office will ever run as a 'Roosevelt' Dem or Lib. White guys don't ever do that anymore. LBJ was the last, and only one. It is a false thing however you slice & dice it. Why? Ethnic diversity. Because the far Right Repubs demonized FDR's New Deal solutions.

  5. I don't understand how you can boggle minds in this day and age when there is no mind there to boggle. They vote, ultimately, for the empty suit who says all the right things but things hardly ever change for the better. They've changed for good, but just Not for the common good. The 'Common' people predominate the majority over the 1% or 10% but the rich folk always get their way, or menu items. Go figure!

  6. It must be emphasized, "neoliberal" refers to "economic" policy. In the "liberal" tradition of free market "lassiez-faire" type economists. (aka the Chicago school of economics…ironically, the most popular view of economics taught in universities, today…which should explain a lot.)


  8. Obama ran as a conservative.

    I question anyone's insight who thought that Obama was a liberal or on the left.

  9. People who believe in "the center" are poorly educated people.

    There are only two categories of government:

    – democracy

    – authoritarian

    That's it. Democracy is leftist, and authoritarian is Rightist.
    Left policies, principles, ideals, and ideologies support democracy.
    Right policies, principles, ideals, and ideologies support authoritarian/totalitarian systems of government: i.e. autocracies, theocracies, monarchies, fascist states, plutocracies, etc.

    The creation of "the center" has been used as propaganda to manipulate leftists into being willing to meet their opponent halfway, without ever explaining to them that rightwing political polices destabilize and destroy the society that leftists are trying to build.

    There is no center.
    The center is a lie.
    In political science, there's no disagreement about this. They use "left" and "right" to teach how governments work and which policies support/destroy them. There is no center, and democracy is not a compromise between the left and the right. People who didn't have civics in school believe that compromise is okay. People who did know it isn't.

    Democracies are achieved against the will of the rightwing. Not with their aid and consent.

  10. The major difference between the 1960s and now is we have no vision for how to move toward. The 60s we had civil rights, we had Vietman, we had early Environmentalism . We do not have a vision now. As someone said, if we had a revolution today, tomorrow we wouldn't know what to do. The severity of our problems, especially in terms of the economic system and the environment requires such huge change, few have ideas for tackling it and even fewer are inspired to take on the real difficulties of changing. There are no new flags to rally around.

  11. Thomas Frank is a great speaker, but in an interview setting he's frustrating, because he never lets the interviewer finish a question or a thought, so you always get the sense that maybe he isn't actually responding, but is instead going off on his own tangent. It's not often that I defend an interviewer, because my usual criticism is that they don't allow the interviewee to speak, but whenever these folks interview Frank, it's the opposite.

  12. Teachers are the ABSOLUTE problem. The teachers union are racist and block Black teachers, and they teach "trans" rights instead of robotics. Fire them all and start over.

  13. I really enjoy Thomas Frank's commentary but part of the problem that he is addressing, he is also perpetuating.
    To look back and say, "It's all happening again" is the clueless, classist, partisan intellectual and moral supremacist observation.

    If you really want to be honest, you MUST recognize Obama as a populist, demigod – worshiped as a Messiah by the liberal elitists Thomas Franks speaks about.
    IF you can come to terms with the reality that Obama sold a platform of HOPE and CHANGE and delivered the largest transfer of wealth in modern history accompanied by massive LOSS of hope and change, a opioid epidemic, suicide and a culture of Sorelian Revolutionary Syndicalism through myth of sub-national identity

    IF you can do this, you will NOT see it as "It's happening AGAIN" but rather there is absolutely zero basis for claiming such a ridiculous view of the world as "A bunch of dumbfucks white males elected a moronic racist orangutan as our President"


    What IS happening AGAIN is a a bunch of uneducated working class dumbfucks elected a leader who does NOT sound impressive in speech

    The MOST COMMON critique of Trump is of course, "he's a moron"
    The MOST COMMON admired attribute of Obama is of course he speaks so well.
    The "difference between the two, it is rhetorical delivery AND results AND an actual verbalized platform.
    You can hate Trump for what you perceive to be lack of intelligence or being beneath you or your ability to read his MORAL intent. If you do that to the Messiah BO, you are a racist for criticizing a child of the elite

    BUT……If you step back and compare verbalized platforms verses actions, you cannot deny Trump is doing what he said he was going to do (with compromise and flexibility)
    He is going about it in a very unorthodox manner and if there were actually an opposition party, this would be an outstanding time to engage and educate people on processes and nuances of "Democracy" in America

    NOW, you MUST come to the reality that Robert DeNiro got a standing ovation from the ELITE for saying, "F#$K Trump"
    Imagine if he had said, "I commit to employing 10 people in Detroit with benefits and pension like me"
    We leave in a time when WOMEN are the face of labor, teachers, actors, politicians, EDUCATED activists, accredited labor leaders from the halls of the elite

    We MUST come to the realization, Trump personally may be more transparent than any previous president which opens him up to opposition attack on many fronts but those attacks are NOT nuanced policy challenges.
    They are attacks of intellectual and moral supremacy

    'A moranic orangutan white supremacist racist "uneducated" JUST LIKE HIS DEPLORABLE SUPPORTERS
    Those jobs are gone, get over it
    There are too many native born WHITE men in STEM
    FIGHT for IMMIGRANTS who are just trying to work and create a better future
    Defend Affirmative Action
    America NEVER was Great
    California pensions increase $1billion per year for those who never paid a premium in their life. Nearly 50% going to keeping promises from the social democracy of yester year and yet there never was a time
    This is the best time for the most amount of people they say yet Trump won and the IWW Socialist revolution is on its way

    These Angry white men are pissed because it's time to give someone else a turn
    They are mad they lost their privilege says the EDUCATED LIBERAL professor and that millionaire google engineer's daughter is oppressed too. Everyone is OPPRESSED except you!

    Oh no, it's happening again
    Post-Industrial Sorelian Revolutionary Syndicalism by identity will end the same way.
    You have these people and their pussy hat herd who really believe they are going to start a "worker" revolution based on post-industrial syndicates of feminist, queer and POC identity. They feel empowered. They are going after everything they want until they get what they deserve to get which will not be pretty as it never has been. Here we go again.

    The way the Democrats became the party of the elite is through the education system
    What kind of party do you expect them to be
    They have TAKEN OVER (not dismantled the INSTITUTION of supremacy)
    They will not stop until they are stopped
    Every day they must have more
    The Democrat platform is all about voting AGAINST those they deplore
    This has been taught and if the teachers cannot admit, the cycle will never quit

    THAT's the issue. If the system does not work for the people the privatization is the only choice
    YOU ARE NOT going to change the institutions or the Sorelian Revolution on the way
    Unless you stop feeding the elite
    Privatization is good at a local level and especially in the schools which are broken beyond repair
    The public employee pension system and keeping promises of the days when American labor unions were great is like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom.

    A education system where the overwhelming curriculum presents the intellectual and moral supremacist vision of the world

    When you frame one side as ignorant, deplorable, racists………you MUST therefore be intellectually and morally SUPERIOR Intellectual and moral supremacy allows one to remain completely IGNORANT yet always superior in understanding and solution. Often, that solution is go to school, sit down, STFU, repeat after me and get a degree

    Lots of "educated" "Democrat" "Liberal" mongoloids running things but that degree in vaginal pube weaving PROVES they are smarter and more moral. Packed dense within that degree is the story of inequity and racism and white privilege and the patriarchy and toxic masculinity and the beauty of GIVING SOMEONE ELSE opportunity
    "Those Jobs are gone. Get over it"
    "Women DOMINATE STEM just not the highest levels
    WOMEN dominate teaching which offers benefits and pension
    WOMEN dominate administration (so-called "pink-collar" jobs)
    Close to 50% of Silicon Valley is foreign born yet this and that are GONE, get over it.
    We NEED more educated engineers, yet we need to divert American boys and men from these jobs
    You NEED a college degree, yet we will decide by quota who the winners will be
    Immigrants do NOT take jobs, that's a lie
    Immigrants do jobs Americans wont do
    You see Americans will not become engineers of house cleaners and construction workers either.
    Actually, there's no point
    WHY school shootings? This is the breeding ground for selecting scapegoats of intellectual and moral supremacy
    To be fair, intellectual and moral supremacists do not only target their enemy. They MUST also recruit a legion of useful Sorelian revolutionary identity idiots too
    PS: This was intentional written in long format to hide it from Intellectual and moral supremacists in plain sight If you waded through this far, you're winning.


  15. 30:30 It's a return to something like the French Underground Movement during WWII. But, if we let this plutokleptocracy run it's course, the giants will wage war among themselves, and we will pick up the pieces.

  16. I love how this evolves into a discussion of the psychology of ideology. It's a kind of breakthrough moment where we can learn how to identify groupthink, and begin to crawl out from under its influence.

  17. Paying teachers well above the market clearing rate for their talents IS the problem.

    Working substantially less hours per year, and a generous (defined benefit) pension (delayed compensation) add up to them receiving relatively less salary today.

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