Why the left shouldn’t bash ‘populism’ and other commentary

From the left: Don’t Bash ‘Populism’

At The Guardian, Thomas Frank admits he cringes every time he hears fellow progressives treat “populism” as a “synonym for everything that is wrong” with conservative-nationalist leaders like President Trump or Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. After all, the word traces its roots to left-wing movements in the late 19th century — including “the rough American equivalent of the labor parties and social-democratic unions springing up in other lands.” The original populists formed “a mass movement of farmers and industrial workers demanding action by the government to ­improve the economic situation of ordinary people and . . . a war on corruption, as well.” It wasn’t until the 1950s that intellectuals soured on populism, and the word became a byword for “irrational” resentments — this, even though historians have since disproved that assessment. Elite anti-populist disdain persists today, especially among “a certain class of people” — professional-managerial elites — for whom “hating populism” is part of their “grand vision of how society ought to be directed”: namely, by them.

From the right: Good News Is Out There

It’s a dark moment in American life — but not without its “good news,” Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes at USA Today. The recent Arab-Israeli ­accords have “taken the poison” out of the “biggest destabilizing force in the region.” The US economy is starting to look up, too, with unemployment numbers down, promising a return to “something like pre-pandemic levels in the next few months.” Finally, take comfort that “the new frontier keeps getting closer,” with a Venus mission and a moon lander in the works.

Pandemic Journal: Biden’s COVID Sloganeering

While President Trump’s critics accuse him of mishandling the pandemic, Joe Biden’s “follow-the-science” plan is less a strategy than a “slogan” — and one that misunderstands “the nature of science and its limitations,” explains Bloomberg Opinion’s Faye Flam. Countries like Sweden, China and New Zealand, after all, have set wildly different priorities in responding to the same scientific facts. “How we weigh those priorities is a matter for public policy.” America’s problem isn’t that lawmakers are ignoring science, but that they have followed a “patchwork” ­approach, marked by the same “polarization” that disfigures so much of our national life. We can’t decide where the line should be between “protesting even the most basic, voluntary measures” and “wanting to forbid face-to-face human interactions indefinitely.” But contra Biden’s talking points, that isn’t a scientific question — it’s a political one.

Foreign desk: Behind Don’s Diplomatic Triumph

Israeli and Bahraini leaders will gather Tuesday at the White House “to sign a historic peace deal,” Charles Lipson notes at Spectator USA. What prompted this “significant” achievement, following on the earlier Israeli-Emirati accord? It’s all thanks to President Trump’s approach, which differs radically from his two immediate predecessors’. “Unlike George W. Bush, who fought a land war in Iraq post 9/11 and deployed thousands of troops throughout the region, Trump is pulling back” — thus impelling Sunni Arab states to form a “common front” against Iran with Israel (rather than depend on US power). Unlike President Barack Obama, however, Trump has reassured the Arab states, even declining to criticize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on human rights. “Noxious or not, his policy had a larger strategic purpose, one that is bearing fruit in recent agreements.”

Iconoclast: Recovering the Joy of Football

After months of COVID-19 grimness, The Week’s Matthew Walther cheers, “I and millions of other Americans were able to forget about the last half year and enjoy a football game” last Thursday night. The game ­wasn’t “one for the ages,” as the Kansas City Chiefs utterly and predictably crushed the Houston Texans. And the sight of “sentient adults” ­pretending that on-and-off masks help fight the virus was plain “absurd.” But never mind all that: “I have a serious sinus infection. My wife’s right foot is in a cast boot. And Thursday night was the most fun we have had since March.”

— Compiled by Sohrab Ahmari & Ashley Adams

New York Post

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