The New York Review of Books has a fine look at the "new populism", which might be better classified as the New Libertarian Nihilism:
Quite apart from the [Tea Party] movement’s effect on the balance of party power, which should be short-lived, it has given us a new political type: the antipolitical Jacobin. The new Jacobins have two classic American traits that have grown much more pronounced in recent decades: blanket distrust of institutions and an astonishing—and unwarranted—confidence in the self. They are apocalyptic pessimists about public life and childlike optimists swaddled in self-esteem when it comes to their own powers.
What galls me is how this blanket distrust is not manifested as healthy skepticism, which involves testing the information we're given. I suspect that's because most people, TPers included, aren't in the habit of testing things empirically — it's a skill you have to learn, and not something which just drops into your lap from heaven. It's the difference between "Please don't lie to me" and "I already know how to think". (Not what, but how. The process by which you arrive at your answers is far more important than the answers themselves, which can change.)
There is a good deal more, including this unnerving suggestion: "...as voters have become more autonomous, less attracted to parties and familiar ideologies, it has become harder for political institutions to represent them collectively." Call it the Balkanization of the Electorate, which fits perfectly side-by-side with a culture divided up into inches on Best Buy's shelf space. The only thing that can draw such people together is the crassest possible least common denominator, which is what we're seeing now.
Another nail hit on the head: how appeals to personal authority are trumping scientific and rational authority. The anti-vax crowd gets mentioned by name, along with the "health freedom" contingent, all proponents of the don't-tell-us-what's-best-for-us mindset. I find those trends far more dangerous than the political ones. You can always vote out a lousy politician, but death and disfigurement are forever.
You don't want anyone to tell you what to think? Wow. Join the freakin' club. Nobody likes to be told they're wrong, or they're stupid, or that their limited experiences do not constitute a scientifically broad sample of reality. The difference is that most of us don't make the anger of being in ignorance into a political position, because that only turns into the kind of paranoia where you end up purging your own buddies for stepping microscopically out of line.
And if you can choke it down and admit that sometimes you don't know everything, that the millions who came before you and set things up might know a thing or two about how it all works ... congratulations. It's a sign of growing up. Maturity is when you can live with being wrong and not only not take it personally but come out better the other side. But I don't see a lot of that in what amounts to a culture of instant political gratification.
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