Saturday, January 05, 2019


On Wednesday, Tucker Carlson delivered a monologue on his Fox show that was not just white-nationalist populist but economically populist. It had many of the things Carlson's audience expects from him -- sexism, anger at immigrants -- but there was also this:
We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.
And this:
Not all commerce is good. Why is it defensible to loan people money they can’t possibly repay? Or charge them interest that impoverishes them? Payday loan outlets in poor neighborhoods collect 400 percent annual interest.

We’re OK with that? We shouldn’t be. Libertarians tell us that’s how markets work -- consenting adults making voluntary decisions about how to live their lives. OK. But it’s also disgusting. If you care about America, you ought to oppose the exploitation of Americans, whether it’s happening in the inner city or on Wall Street.
And this:
[Mitt] Romney spent the bulk of his business career at a firm called Bain Capital. Bain Capital all but invented what is now a familiar business strategy: Take over an existing company for a short period of time, cut costs by firing employees, run up the debt, extract the wealth, and move on, sometimes leaving retirees without their earned pensions. Romney became fantastically rich doing this.

Meanwhile, a remarkable number of the companies are now bankrupt or extinct. This is the private equity model. Our ruling class sees nothing wrong with it. It’s how they run the country.

Mitt Romney refers to unwavering support for a finance-based economy and an internationalist foreign policy as the “mainstream Republican” view. And he’s right about that. For generations, Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars. Modern Democrats generally support those goals enthusiastically.
At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher raved about the monologue, under the headline "Tucker Carlson for President." At National Review, Kyle Smith had a mixed response, but he called the speech "great" and "galvanizing" and said, "If an obscure senator gave this speech, he’d be famous overnight," and also "I think it has the potential to take off the way Rick Santelli’s tea party speech did."

And then yesterday, in response to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's call for a return to top margin tax rates of 70% (i.e., the rates we had before the Reagan presidency), Ann Coulter tweeted this:

What's going on?

This is what right-wing populism might look like in America if it weren't completely co-opted by mainstream Republican corpocratic thinking. This is the world according to Steve Bannon -- although I watched him throughout his tenure in the White House and it was clear even before he fell out of favor with Donald Trump that he was blowing smoke when he talked about securing tax increases on the wealthy and actually helping working people. Trump was never going to go along with any of that. Mitch McConnell was never going to go along with any of it. Republicans in Congress and their donors were certainly not interested.

Coulter has been angry at the Koch brothers for a few years now, ever since they resisted Trump in the 2016 election. She seems them as supporters of cheap immigrant labor, which is anathema to her.

Coulter and the Kochs really aren't on the same page -- as Dave Weigel notes, "The LIBRE Initiative, a Koch network group focused on immigration reform, has been running ads for two weeks in support of a wall funding/DREAM Act deal." Time reports that "The politically savvy donor network helmed by billionaire Charles Koch plans in 2019 to use its deep pockets to push for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, including permanent legal status for for young people who came to the country illegally."

Is that the future of right-wing populism -- anti-corporatist as well as anti-immigrant? Not as long as Trump is wildly popular on the right and nearly all Republican members of Congress are pro-plutocrat. I think this is a minority strain of conservatism that will never be dominant. But we'll see.

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