So, You Call that Populism?
Donald Trump was President of the United States. His election sent shockwaves around the world. Not only because he was the host of a reality TV show prior to assuming office, but also because of his unhinged political style — widely described as populist — that castigated immigrants, trafficked in racist appeals, and embraced the vulgar and politically incorrect. His unhinged approach to politics sought to establish a connection directly with voters, “the forgotten people” as he likes to say, which was made easier by billions of dollars of unpaid media and a heedless use of social media, particularly Twitter. His emergence upon the political scene coincided with the rise of Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Sanders’s strong showing in the 2016 Democratic primaries, propelled by a fiery condemnation of the one percent and political class, and frontrunner status for the 2020 Democratic nomination has many convinced that America is amidst a populist moment.
In late March, the Mueller Report was finally but only partially unveiled. The politicians aligned themselves to this news accordingly. Amazingly, the political fallout of the news was aggrandized while a mountain gave birth to a mouse. Mueller was relegated; Rosenstein was demoted; Putin was derogated; big media was deprecated and Trump was demystified. Everybody suffered and without a hint of romance.
Sunday Brunch with a Scholar and a Sage
Every Sunday afternoon at one we meet at Valois Cafeteria for brunch. Sometimes there are more, but usually it’s just Bernie, Steven and me. We meet once weekly and have done so regularly for the past year. Due to the awkward timing of the rendezvous, I’m usually famished when I arrive. However, Bernie’s physical condition requires that we avoid the crowds of the noon rush hour. He’s the sage, so Steven and I defer to him.
Both Bernie and Steven are retired. Bernie is a former Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago who taught some of the most popular courses in the department until his retirement at the age of 85. His career is marked by genuine accomplishment—the only ever two term Chair of the Department and the incredible distinction of having corrected Max Weber. He’s an expert on bureaucracies and their development.
Steven is currently working on a relentless takedown of a Japanese intellectual who somehow influenced the postwar Japanese educational system. He is, of course, the scholar. According to Steven, his subject subterraneously injected deeply conservative ideology into the Ministry of Education. Beyond his work on Japanese educational history, Steven has dipped his toe in a wide variety of careers and industries, including work as a journalist for the International Herald Tribune. At the age of 65, Steven is an aging hippie with the ponytail and enigmatic beard to prove it.