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Thursday, July 25, 2024
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HomeDemocracy in DecayYes, democracy is under threat – but not from the right

Yes, democracy is under threat – but not from the right

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READERS may not be familiar with Professor Paul Krugman. Most will probably be unaware of his exemplary, world-class, innovative thinking and writing as an economist who discovered my former scholarly field, economic geography. His books such as Geography and Trade in the 1990s changed debates, and for the better. He was smart and a heavy hitter. A Nobel Prize winner, no less.

Sadly, the later Krugman (he is now 71) has descended into mediocre, derivative demagoguery against ‘the right’. This turn dates from his acquisition of a columnist position at the New York Times in 1999.  His early target was President George W Bush and Iraq. And he was right. Bush was a disaster at every level, in foreign and domestic policy, and his deeply flawed interpretation of 9/11 led to a tyrannical attack on freedom which, in turn, paved the way for the Covid State.  

Krugman was brought to mind by the truther-teller Matt Taibbi. He was reflecting on the massively supportive reactions of progressive leftists such as Krugman to a recent book called White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy by Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman.  

Krugman, Taibbi reports, has described the book and the phenomenon of rural rage the authors claim to describe as ‘terrifying, devastating and baffling’. Krugman says, in fact, that white rural rage is arguably the single greatest threat facing American democracy.

Think about this for a minute. White rural rage? Gosh, that IS a problem. One can only wonder what planet this guy is inhabiting.

I and many others of the outside-the-beltway class firmly believe that democracy is indeed under threat, but not from us. It is under threat from:

·         Outsized and growing government;

·         The deep state;

·         Out-of-control executive overreach;

·         Out-of-control inference in our lives by unelected bureaucrats, global governance types, non-government corporations and woke corporations;

·         The sidelining of parliaments;

·         Climate and net zero b.s.;

·         Getting into bed with, and ignoring the multi-generational crimes of, Big Pharma;

·         The surveillance state;

·         Turbo-charged corporatism;

·         The total absence of respect for voters at elections (and at every other time);

·         The abandonment of (admittedly flawed) election mandate theory;

·         A non-inquiring legacy media bought up by governments and corporates;

·         Public health tyranny.

This list merely kisses the surface. It doesn’t even scratch it.

But the authors of the book mentioned and their cheerleaders think that WE are the problem for democracy. This is idiocy on stilts. Sadly, there is nothing remotely original in members of the elites taking aim at those who live in ‘flyover country’. 

Matt Taibbi said he ‘made the mistake’ of reading the book. Make sure you don’t. He called it ‘undisguised class hatred’ of rural whites who, according to the book, ‘despite legitimate grievances, are increasingly inclined to hold racist and xenophobic beliefs, to believe in conspiracy theories, to accept violence as a legitimate course of political action, and to exhibit antidemocratic tendencies’.

Ironic, you’d think, for ‘people of the left’, whose spiritual godfathers in 1848 (in The Communist Manifesto) urged the outsiders to rebel against the ruling class. Those same outsiders now ‘threaten democracy’.

Compared with my little list of how and how much the elites are screwing us all and turning our former democracies into what Mike Benz has recently and accurately describes as ‘military rule’ (serialised here on TCW), the views of ‘rural whites’ – they should surely have added ‘heterosexual’ and ‘male’ to the ascribed characteristics – are fairly tame in comparison. 

These authors, Krugman and the rest of them, have achieved the feat of not just missing the point, or narrowly missing the target, but getting recent political developments 180 degrees wrong. Being as far from the truth as you can get, and not even beginning to see by how far you have evaded the mark.

Yes, they all admit, the rural electorate has grievances. Their own list, which overlaps my own, is long and warranted. But, inadvertently or not, the looking-downness – after all, isn’t this what defines ‘elitism’? – of these types fails even to mention, to take just one example, the opioid crisis inflicted on the innocent and not-so-innocent populace. Ignorance is bliss for the urban elites.

The evil described so farcically by the look-downers might best be summed up as ‘populism’. Well, isn’t populism mostly about ensuring that the actual will of the people is at least taken into account, occasionally, by the ruling class?  The meagre expectation that rulers will do what they say they will, not do things for which they haven’t sought a mandate, not lie to the voters, not rig elections? That sort of thing.

There is, of course, a word for this that inevitably rolls into these ‘debates’. Certainly in America. The word, of course, is ‘Trump’. To say that these people are obsessed with The Donald is does an injustice to the meaning of ‘understatement’. They are also obsessed with Le Pen, with Orban, with Milei, with Meloni, and with the new Germanic force, the AfD. In Britain, it would be Farage, though he is pretty mainstream these days.

Taibbi notes:

Despite a pandemic that graphically demonstrated the social contributions of farmers, truckers, train operators and other ‘essential workers,’ the people doing those jobs were demonised during the crisisas murderous horse-paste eaters and insurrectionists. Their chief crimes: protesting against lockdowns and school closures that disproportionately affected them, and being consumers of supposed foreign-inspired ‘misinformation’ that led them to refuse appropriate political choices offered them.

Indeed. Taibbi also notes they are portrayed in the book not just as racist demagogues but also as spongers on the wealth and endless productivity of the cities. A suitable enemy for those who have managed to meld progressivism with libertarian economics. As the current ruling elites have done.

For those who think and say that these arguments (assertions?) are all rubbish (and so easily dismissed), we should remember that it is these same people who run the world. With unbridled power, they do not need rational, evidence-based, sound, considered story-lines. And all the racist scum out in the burbs and the rural regions should simply get over their grievances, move to the cities, grab a rainbow flag, get a job in tech or fact checking, and vote for Joe. And Sir Keir. And Macron. And Justin. 

What a betrayal by my one-time professor.

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Paul Collits
Paul Collits
Paul Collits is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Quadrant Online

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