As I’ve reflected in several local television and radio interviews and in a few articles, my perspective on populism is much different than the alleged threat being fear mongered on the mainstream media. Real populism is a true expression of democracy by a population that, for an instant at least, has broken the institutional fetters designed to permit oligarchies to rule in the guise of democracy. It is a sort of tsunami percolating from below. It is a phenomena that may be wrong, right or somewhere in between, and it is neither a left wing (collectivist) nor right wing (individualist) phenomena, it can easily be either.
A similar phenomenon for which the identical name is used but which is in many ways profoundly different is the complex of strategies, tactics and reactive frameworks used by ambitious individuals or organizations to attain power outside of the de facto norms and institutions established by existing, formalized power structures; in essence, the art of artificially generating populist tsunamis for their own purposes. That is not populism; that is merely a perverted verisimilitude of populism.
An analogy I envision is the difference between the solar nuclear reactions that reach us as beneficent sunlight contrasted with the nuclear weapons we create and use to either destroy or threaten destruction. The uber-tools that make this perversion possible as well as make real democracy impossible are the faux journalists who today control virtually all means of mass communication, those who, perverting the meaning of “mainstream”, have gotten us accustomed to referring to them as the “mainstream media”. As if they reflected our hopes, aspirations, and quests for the common welfare rather than those of their utterly corrupt, utterly selfish and utterly ruthless econopolitical masters.
During 2016–2017 we witnessed twin populist tsunamis in the United States, one, a Tea Party inspired tsunami from the right that adopted as its symbol a very flawed Donald Trump and another, from the left, that adopted as its symbol the very flawed Bernie Sanders. The bulwark against those popular exercises in democracy erected by the putrid elites who with good reason feel we are their chattels was the Clinton — Obama politicoeconomic machine, well-oiled, well-funded, seemingly well-tuned, but all it accomplished was to blunt the waves from the left and insanely infuriate all the metaphorical elitist wasps and bees in the “mainstream media” as their prematurely crowned dowager queen fell flat on her face, apparently slipping in the receding tidal current of the tsunami from the right.
Now, like the designers of nuclear weapons seeking to emulate the sun, the Clinton — Obama — “mainstream media” cult which, includes all too many “traditional Republicans and the entirely of the cabal from within now popularly referred to as the “deep state”, are madly seeking to generate faux tsunamis and regain undisputed power, promising anything and everything and drowning out the resulting incoherence in “shrillily” increasing decibels instead of logic and facts, hypocrisy, to them, much more appetizing than veracity (after all, it comes first when placed in alphabetical order).
Populism, the real phenomenon, may be our only hope to recoup popular governance which of course, does not guarantee good governance or equity or equality or the common welfare. The influence of corruption, like any other cancer, is virulent and stopping it all too often kills the patient, but it’s either populism or join the denizens of the Brave New World on an Animal Farm sometime during 1984.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé and Diana Marcela Cardenas Garcia; Manizales, 2018; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at www.guillermocalvo.com. Diana Marcela Cardenas Garcia is a Colombian social communicator and journalist who collaborates with Dr. Calvo on diverse civic, social and political projects.