Thomas Frank’s The People No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism was an easy, entertaining read.
Frank’s effort to chronicle the history of anti populism is an important contribution to our understanding of today’s politics. As he says repeatedly, populists were not historically as they have been portrayed. More importantly, today’s racist nativists, who are often called populists, would not have been populists when the word populism was invented in the 1890s.
Frank makes a strong case that, for the most part, populists were far more inclusive than either Democrats or Republicans; in fact, he shows how both parties used racism to destroy populist and socialist efforts in the early 1900s.
One of the most interesting and useful parts of Frank’s work is his argument that the Democratic Party has lost ground with working-class voters because the Democratic Party has been focussed on the so-called expertise of highly-educated professionals. While others have certainly made this point, Frank does a good job highlighting how often the so-called experts have been wrong, and how little they have accomplished for anyone but themselves.
If you want to learn more about the original populists and how the corporate masters and their political hacks defeated them, The People No will be worth your time.
What I was Thinking
While I really enjoyed the book, reading it was kind of frustrating. The idea that, at a time when the people need government to work more for them than they have in years, the election is between two men dedicated to working for their corporate masters and against the people was disheartening. Trump and the GOP are a complete lost cause. But the Democratic Party could have done better. In Biden, they have a nominee who has dedicated his life and promised his presidency to the status quo. For many, including me, the status quo is unacceptable.
Like Frank, I’m certain a true populist could win the presidency. Without serious action on the part of the people, the system will always be rigged so badly that a true populist will never have anything approaching a fair shot to win.