The Problem With Populism

As I read an editorial, Americans Need Jobs, Not Populism, by Jack Markell, the Democratic governor of Delaware, I was struck by the following thought about populism–left and right:

The problem with populism is that it puts the focus on feeling good, rather than getting what you want.

Whether you’re a Tea Partyer, or you’re still mourning the Occupy Movement, participating in populist movement is all about feeling good.  It feels good to fill and surround yourself with righteous indignation.  But what it doesn’t do is have a real impact.

Making change usually doesn’t feel good.  It usually feels frustrating and boring.  You’re constantly swimming upstream, while the rest of the world floats downstream, sitting in a inner tube and sipping on a cocktail.  It’s a lot more fun to join a mob so you can shout slogans and high-five the true believers.

Making change is unselfish work.  Populism is selfish fun.

1 thought on “The Problem With Populism

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for this, Chris.

    I am always surprised by how deeply romantic people really are. Especially men. I think it's natural to want to do something significant with your life (if the alternative is feeling existential, which I personally do every day,) but there is something so delusional about chasing a dream sometimes. It's like we want to be creatures of stars, crescendo music, lust, etc., and will do anything to avoid being someone who toils thanklessly without soaring feelings. I wonder how you feel about people who seek these emotions out in their personal lives in addition to professional – I mean the adulterers, the backstabbers of best friends, the people who let down their family for all kinds of dreamy reasons…

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