Anyone who has been following this blog on my Facebook page knows what The New York Times leading columnist Paul Krugman points out today.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 23, 2016
“Authoritarians with an animus against ethnic minorities,” Krugman writes, “are on the march across the Western world.” That, of course, especially includes President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters, who have bombarded my public Facebook page with typical name calling and rants in recent days in what is either a coordinated attack or just the result of misdirected, random anger that has been normalized in our culture. Yet these are not normal times. The “animus” is happening in Poland, Hungary and was obviously a defining factor of the Brexit vote in England, which is now withdrawing from the European Union. It’s happening in Germany, France and Austria. It’s emerging in other Western countries as well.
Somewhere along the way to this frightening moment in history, the word “populism” started getting used to describe this right-wing, worldwide hate spiral, but, as Krugman notes, it hardly applies to Trump, who has given no indication he plans to appease the American masses with any financial benefits or rewards. That the right-wing Trumpians have been bamboozled is no big revelation, of course, and this will become apparent in the coming weeks, but even then it’s unlikely diehard Trump supporters will admit their folly because the psychological investment in hate and anger goes far beyond basic financial considerations or even day-to-day life and routines. It’s about itself. It’s a narcotic that when repeatedly taken turns into an addiction.
Trump has shown by his cabinet picks, for example, that he plans to reward a small oligarch in this country intent on dismantling our nation’s institutions, safety nets and democracy. He has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, for example, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt’s campaign ties to the oil and gas industry are well established. One of his campaign chairs, Harold Hamm, is the chief executive officer of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma City-based energy company, which helped to ignite the fracking boom. Trump has also chosen the anti-Obamacare U.S. Rep. Georgia Rep. Tom Price to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is the outgoing chief executive officer of ExxonMobil with ties to Russia.
More money for the titans of the fossil-fuel industry, no environmental “protection” at all and less medical access for millions of Americans. That hardly seems like a populist agenda in any normal sense of the word.
To use the words populist or populism to describe anything related to the Trump phenomenon is a basic error, as Krugman notes. Most corporate media outlets have shied away from using more realistic terms, but I wonder how long that can last once Trump assumes the presidency. Words do matter, and the man who will apparently govern by tweets knows that as well as anyone else.