Sadopopulism

5 mins read

It’s clear he wants to kill us,” said Rosanna Arquette after reading about Trump’s love affair with asbestos, a love affair in line with his penchant for policies that cause suffering.

It’s time to talk about Sadopopulism again (term coined by Yale Professor Timothy Snyder). You can hear his mini lecture on sadopopulism here.

20th century fascists like Hitler and Mussolini wanted power, and were content not to make themselves as rich as kings. Mussolini was happy to wear workman’s clothing. Their policies also actually helped their supporters. Hitler’s cruel policies enriched ordinary Germans, for example, by giving ethnic Germans the spoils from victims.

21st century fascists , on the other hand, want both wealth and power. This creates a policy-making challenge. When the president of a liberal democracy (like Obama) creates policies, he or she tries to make changes in the best interests of the people, to increase their health and wealth.

Would-be oligarchs, who want to control all the nation’s wealth, can’t do this, because if they create policies that allow the lower and middle classes to rise up, others can challenge their right to all the wealth and resources.

Would-be oligarchs instead follow a 4-part plan:

  • They identify an “enemy” (homeless migrants, minority communities, Democrats, etc.)
  • They enact policies that create pain in their own supporters
  • They blame the pain on the “enemies”
  • They present themselves as the strongmen to fight the enemies.

It’s simple. When the policies that create pain also enrich the ruler, it’s a two-fer. The rulers enrich themselves while creating pain, which they can harness and blame on the “enemies.”

We can make a very long list of Trump’s pain-causing policies. To take just two examples, remember when the EPA wouldn’t ban a pesticide associated with health problems in children. Trump is also determined to eliminate affordable healthcare. Just think of the pain families will suffer if their children become ill and they have no healthcare. The would-be oligarch can then harness that pain and anger into a desire to fight the “enemies.”

A talking point with Fox-Trump-GOP is that we can’t let in refugees because we’re already too crowded and we don’t have enough resources for ordinary Americans. A country in which all people prosper and share equally in the wealth can’t make this argument.

“We don’t have enough resources to share with newcomers,” say the billionaires as they seize all the resources, make themselves richer, and inflict suffering on millions.

Sadopopulism is the deceptively simple means by which would-be oligarchs consolidate both wealth and power.

It’s also the embodiment of cruelty.

“How can people be that dumb to fall for it?” you ask.

For people who live in fear of “enemies,” it isn’t dumb at all.

The followers of the Fox-Trump-GOP get it. They know Trump and pals are enriching themselves at their expense.

Joe Walsh, a Republican candidate for president challenging Trump for the nomination, recounted his experiences here. Joe Walsh helped create the monster he is complaining about. The monster is now destroying one of the creators. Here is how to make amends:

Trump supporters don’t care if he is cruel, and lies, and cheats.

Trump is giving them what they want more than affordable health care, protective legislation, or honest leadership: He is doing battle with their “enemies.”

His supporters thrill at the fight. They don’t care if he’s blocking witnesses. They don’t care if he’s robbing them blind. Because he gives them the thrill of fighting their “enemies.”

What do we do? These people are nowhere near a majority of voters. We can have a landslide in November without them.

Need something to do? See my list,here.

Feel inclined to make a doomsaying comment about how we’re doomed? See my FAQs, here.

[View as a Twitter thread]

Originally posted on Musing about Law, Books, and Politics.
Re-posted with permission.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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