Chris Aldrich is reading “Trump and American Populism: Old Whine, New Bottles”

Read Trump and American Populism (Foreign Affairs)
Two strands of populism have long thrived in American politics, both purporting to champion the interests of ordinary people. One shoots upward, at nefarious elites; the other—Trump’s tradition—shoots both up and down, targeting outsiders at the bottom of the ladder as well.
The title was a little link-baitish, but overall, this is an excellent history of the populism movement in America. Recommend.

🔖 I’ll have to get a copy of Gest’s work to read now that I’ve seen two references to it in two different articles.

My Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Two different, often competing populist traditions have long thrived in the United States. Pundits often speak of “left-wing” and “right-wing” populists. But those labels don’t capture the most meaningful distinction. The first type of American populist directs his or her ire exclusively upward: at corporate elites and their enablers in government who have allegedly betrayed the interests of the men and women who do the nation’s essential work. These populists embrace a conception of “the people” based on class and avoid identifying themselves as supporters or opponents of any particular ethnic group or religion. They belong to a broadly liberal current in American political life; they advance a version of “civic nationalism,” which the historian Gary Gerstle defines as the “belief in the fundamental equality of all human beings, in every individual’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and in a democratic government that derives its legitimacy from the people’s consent.”

Although Trump’s rise has demonstrated the enduring appeal of the racial-nationalist strain of American populism, his campaign is missing one crucial element. It lacks a relatively coherent, emotionally rousing description of “the people” whom Trump claims to represent.

By invoking identities that voters embraced—“producers,” “white laborers,” “Christian Americans,” or President Richard Nixon’s “silent majority”—populists roused them to vote for their party and not merely against the alternatives on offer.

For much of his campaign, his slogan might as well have been “Make America Hate Again.”

According to a recent study by the political scientist Justin Gest, 65 percent of white Americans—about two-fifths of the population—would be open to voting for a party that stood for “stopping mass immigration, providing American jobs to American workers, preserving America’s Christian heritage, and stopping the threat of Islam.”

This is the second article in the same issue of Foreign Affairs that’s quoting this same statistic from the same paper. [1] [2]



J. Gest, “Why Trumpism Will Outlast Donald Trump,” POLITICO Magazine, 16-Aug-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Dec-2016]
J. Gest, The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality. Oxford University Press, 2016.

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

4 thoughts on “Chris Aldrich is reading “Trump and American Populism: Old Whine, New Bottles””

  1. We, the Electoral College

    Before ‘twas lonely rhetoric,
    Ensured succession weapon-free.
    Voters candidates did pick,
    Without rules or referee.
    For final Presidential ramp,
    We accord our rubber stamp.

    But rules unwritten surely are,
    And rhetoric can go too far.
    Shouldn’t Electors, five, three, eight,
    Think on this ‘fore sealing fate?
    If candidate doth lie, lie, lie,
    Is time ripe for bye, bye, bye?

    Even in hour of victory,
    Claims millions vote illegally.
    Wave on wave an endless stream
    Outflanks checkers, team by team.
    Opponents counter not in kind,
    One hand behind back do bind.

    These, who this low fight decry,
    Are seen by kids to fight on high.
    What to tell them, our kin,
    When post-truth strategy doth win?

    Referee, umpire and linesmen all,
    The games kids play, they oversee.
    Call foul a foul, and all agree,
    In life’s journey you walk tall.

    So Electors must seek high goal,
    Before stamp, need ref’ree role.
    For those who seek Pres’dential fame,
    What counts is how they play the game.

    1. Original verse Donald? You should publish. 😉

      1. Yes original Chris. You have until Dec 19th to use your skills to do so on my behalf. Sadly, this is not a 🙂 matter!

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