A New Wave of Left Populists Is on the Rise in the US

Source: In These Times

IN SPRING 2016, a U.S. presidential candidate made the above prediction to Businessweek. That candidate was none other than Donald Trump, and he was speaking of the GOP. His words seem ludicrous, but Trump’s anti-corruption pose, populism and vaguely left-sounding economic rhetoric would ultimately take him all the way to the White House.

Trump was also openly racist, misogynistic and unencumbered by facts. But he foregrounded economic decline and corruption—and the tight link between them—with a rhetorical force and consistency that always eluded his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In a campaign speech in a small Pennsylvania town in June 2016, Trump noted that Pittsburgh’s steel had built much of the nation. But “our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal,” he said. “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization—moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” Political corruption, in other words, was the root of the nation’s economic stagnation. “I alone can fix it,” he famously thundered at the 2016 GOP Convention.

Of course, Trump’s policies bear no relation to his rhetoric. He stocked his administration with members of the corporate elite who pursue tax breaks for the corporate elite. He put the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration under the control of the industries they are tasked with regulating. Trump has, in short, infected our politics with new doses of corruption while posing as the antidote.


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