World

What happened to the populist left?

1 February 2021

2:49 AM

1 February 2021

2:49 AM

To this day, my iPhone still changes the word ‘too’ to ‘TPP,’ a reminder that about five years ago I must have texted frequently about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Although my phone still can’t figure out that I’ve never once intended to write the word ‘ducking’, this annoying correction happened again the other day when I happened to be watching old footage from the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle.

The scene looked nearly identical to Antifa’s summer of discontent just a few months ago, with largely Caucasian, black-clad, masked-up youth throwing a temper tantrum in one of our nation’s central business districts. Even those rioters’ chants were identical to today’s far-left. ‘Whose streets? Our streets,’ they bleated in the video.

In 2016, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was so reviled by both the Bernie Sanders left and the Trumpian right that ahead of their convention the Democratic National Committee warily removed support for the trade deal from the party’s platform, a rare concession to the Bernie bros who had chosen this hill to die on — and won. The bros remained vigilant throughout the convention, which became a cacophony of boos and jeers from the populist-left delegates, so disruptive the networks regularly cut the audio.

That may have proved to be the last gasp of the old-school economic Marxist — the original progressives, the union guys, the pro-worker, anti-corporation labor Democrat. A voter that may also be called the Trump Democrat, those who flipped the Rust Belt and immediately got branded as knuckle-dragging white supremacists, despite those very people probably having the least racial hang-ups of anyone in America.


A libertine attitude toward social issues like gay marriage and marijuana, prison reform, and an unwavering stance against all foreign wars joined free trade in uniting the discontented, anti-Hillary left with the Trump right. Even Bernie Sanders was also not an open borders-type of technocrat corporate socialist. Like Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, Sanders came from that earlier school of Marxism that understood their exhaled welfare state needed a sane immigration policy if it had any chance of not completely buckling. Bernie, like his supporters, has since abandoned that dusty old concept to get behind the 1,000-yard gaze of the AOC set.

All of these are quite substantial positions to unify around. Imagine the unthinkable scenario of a President-elect Tulsi Gabbard. The Trump right would be quite satisfied based on those issues alone. There would have been no mass demonstrations in Washington, certainly no Capitol breach and many of Trump’s voters probably would have crossed party lines to vote for a President Gabbard.

This week, we are reminded of another: Wall Street. The Trumpian right and the populist left united to rejoice in the collapse of a hedge fund caused by a populist run on retail stocks including GameStop and AMC. The chaotic run on stocks was cheered as a heady, almost revolutionary act of the little guy punching back at the banks. Main Street was finally giving Wall Street a taste of its own medicine. Even AOC and Sen. Ted Cruz found common ground in support, of all things, for the free market.

The Obama-era Occupy Wall Street movement was Antifa’s predecessor. Though it was made up of largely the same demographic of white rich kids and college professors, Occupy had legitimate grievances. A sizable number of those who supported Occupy, I’d wager, went on to vote Trump a few years later.

The rest of those Occupiers, along with the Gen Xers who rioted in Seattle against free trade, quickly proved to have pathetically shallow constitutions. What we learned from this millennium’s populist left is they never really cared about free trade or being anti-war or fighting Wall Street; they only wanted to feed some inner yearning to destroy things. Instead of sticking to convictions and using their collective might to achieve real change, they only suckled an inner brat and rapidly allowed the media and big business, including Wall Street, to shift their movement’s focus from economics to fairytales about Nazis, white supremacists, and racism.

And this extends to the leftists before them, the baby boomers, who are most favorably remembered as the campus radicals who started the free-speech movement and marched against war. Today, all three generations of American leftists — the millennial Occupiers, the Gen Xers, and the boomers — rejoice as the most powerful companies in the world systemically silence dissenting political voices. None of them gives a damn about war. And they sneer at the working class in the same breath they celebrate a hedge fund’s demise, not realizing they have the same enemy.

This void of constitution created a dangerous opportunity for the de facto villains of the grassroots left — the corporate global elites — to manipulate activists into taking to the streets to rage for the machine, rather than against it. If the Communist party of China, along with every multinational corporation in America, enthusiastically supports a movement, as they did with Black Lives Matter, that ought to give pause to any populist, for-the-people revolutionary. Compound that with the fact these are the same forces that backed their sworn enemy, Hillary Clinton, just four years earlier.

In a different version of history, the Occupiers may have all converted to Trumpism. Instead, faced with double-defeat following Hillary’s loss, they looked to the media and universities to entertain them with mental jigsaw puzzles like ‘multi-racial white supremacy’. The basked in corporations posting empty screeds regarding the Christ-like plight of transgender women of color. Rather than seeing how good the populist, anti-Wall Street left may have had it with President Trump, they sank further into their orgy of indignation by allowing the media, the Democratic party and corporations to prey on their volatile emotional state in order to wreck Trump’s presidency. The grassroots left refuses to see how they’ve become a tool used to restore the Hillarian establishment to power. An establishment which is now, as they say, laughing all the way to the bank.

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