One of the distinguishing features of politics in the American Empire is the phenomenon of white populism. This is something that emerged in the middle of the last century with the establishment of the American Empire after World War II. Every generation has experienced a wave of populist unrest, always in reaction to some reform movement initiated by the white elites. The elites act and the white working and middle classes react.
The first example of this was the white populist revolts in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement and the 1960’s Cultural Revolution. Whites in the South reacted to the destruction of segregation. This was followed by a revolt by northern whites over things like forced busing and the cultural upheaval. This set off the great political realignment where southern whites and northern ethnics migrated from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party in the 60’s and 70’s.
Another white populist revolt started with the de-industrialization of the country starting in the 70’s and accelerating into the 80’s. The rapid conversion of the economy from manufacturing to retail and services continued the political realignment that started in the 60’s. The so-called Reagan Democrats were mostly the people who had voted for Nixon, but this time they moved the GOP for good. This was also the start of the gap between the knowledge economy and the labor economy.
The current crisis is another wave of white populism. This time it is in reaction to the continued looting of the middle-class economy by the global elites, but also the betrayals of the Bush years and the Kulturkampf of the Obama years. Large numbers of whites in American have come to the conclusion that the political and economic elites are at war with them. The election of Trump in 2016 is one obvious result, but the hysterical and now violent reaction of the elites is another.
The thing about these waves of white populism is they follow the same pattern; despite the fact the triggering events are different and the times are different. There are some obvious parallels between what is happening now and what happened in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but modern America is nothing like the America of the 60’s. In fact, the people of that age would not recognize this age as America. Despite the enormous differences in culture and demographics, the pattern is the same.
One aspect of every white populist spasm has been that it gets funneled into a form of legitimate politics. The conservative movement of Bill Buckley, for example, tapped into white populism in order to get professional conservatives into office. Nixon’s so-called Southern Strategy was an explicit attempt to get disaffected white voters in the South to abandon their allegiance to the Democrat Party. Legitimate politics promised these voters a remedy to the assault on their culture.
The rise of Evangelical conservatism in the 70’s and 80’s was another effort to funnel white unrest into legitimate politics. Christians logically figured that if they organized politically, politicians would seek their vote. They would get the vote by addressing their concerns about things like abortion, family law and education. Of course, the Tea Party Movement and now the MAGA stuff are more efforts by whites to defend themselves through the legitimate political process.
Another thing all of these right-wing populist movements have in common is they failed to get anything for their efforts. Nixon did nothing to address the concerns of Southern whites over desegregation. He was happy to let them think he was on their side, but Nixon was more focused on gaining acceptance from official Washington. Reagan delivered for corporate interests and the military industrial complex, but never got around to doing anything for social conservatives.
Today we are seeing the same thing with Trump. His reelection depends entirely on whites coming out to vote for him for symbolic reasons. He will not deliver anything useful to white voters, but he will be a constant irritant to the elites. In fact, the only practical reason to vote for Trump in November is his reelection will send the elites into orbit and they could harm their own efforts. Otherwise, like Nixon and Reagan, Trump will deliver nothing for white populists.
The one new wrinkle to this process is that after the Cold War, many Republicans became hostile to white populists. The purging of the paleocons by the neocons in the 1990’s realigned the party away from populism. Most Republicans, for example, were openly hostile to the Tea Party movement. Trump’s biggest problem in Washington is his own party, which hates him as much as the Left hates him. So-called conservatives are fully onboard with multiculturalism now.
Of course, white populism has always had another outlet. That is the path of what can loosely be called white nationalism. In the 1960’s, people like George Lincoln Rockwell and William Pierce tried to tap into white populism to promote racial awareness among disaffected whites. Theirs was an anti-politics, in that it rejected the political system itself as illegitimate. Rather than try to mobilize people to elect better politicians, they wanted to organize people to create a new system.
In the case of Rockwell, it got nutty and then it got bloody. He tried selling Nazism to a country still proud of defeating the Nazis in WWII. The absurdity of his presentation got him plenty of attention, but that did more harm than good. He attracted a lot of weirdos and lunatics to his banner. He ended up taking two in the hat outside a laundromat, but even all these years later, the Left finds him to be a useful example to wave in front of bourgeois whites as a warning about white nationalism.
This is a pattern that has repeated in every spasm of white populism. The white nationalist lane is divided into one sober minded track and one eccentric and often dangerous track. William Pierce was a genuine intellect who understood the larger problems facing white people in America. He could never figure out how to break free of the eccentrics like Rockwell in order to attract a broader audience. The result was white nationalism became an insulated subculture.
This pattern repeated in the 1980’s. People like David Duke and Don Black came out of the Rockwell experience with the hope of breaking out of the white nationalism trap and addressing a general audience. Instead, Duke ended up being a less bizarre version of Rockwell and his movement was plagued by criminals and weirdos. After some national attention in the 1980’s, as well as some white nationalist violence, this phase of white nationalism faded into an insulated subculture.
In this current wave, the pattern has held. The alt-right started as a genuine populist revolt on-line among younger white males. The anonymity and irreverence of on-line culture gave them a way to express their unhappiness with modernity. The alt-right tapped into that, but like prior white nationalist spasms, this one was overrun by eccentrics and criminals. This time, the preppy airhead, Richard Spencer, was the clown prince used by the Left in their presentations.
As an aside, white nationalism in America has tracked the technological changes in the country over the last fifty years. The first iteration was banned from conventional media platforms, so it relied on things like newsletters and shortwave radio. The second iteration was the first to use the internet to build an on-line culture. Stormfront really was an innovation in political organizing. This last phase is confined to private internet channels, podcasts and live-streams.
Taken as a whole, the pattern is clear. These spasms of white populism in reaction to social experimentation by elites or changes in the economic order always end up going down two dead end paths. One is conventional politics, always through existing political channels, like the GOP. The other is white nationalism, which always ends up in a circus of attention seeking eccentrics, who are easily exploited by the Left. It is two roads that lead to the same dead end.
Interestingly, these two tracks always end up convinced that the other track is a dead end populated by losers. Today, many of the MAGA people invest as much time in rejecting the bad whites as they do supporting their cause. The remnants of the alt-right, in the name of white people, invest much of their time attacking white people, their history and their customs. Many of them sound anti-American to most people. Their rhetoric is decidedly leftist and hostile to American traditions.
The logical way out of this trap is something William Pierce recognized, but was never able to implement. That is, white populism needs to be channeled into a bourgeois politics that attracts high quality people who understand the problem is the system itself, rather than the office holders. In other words, it borrows the central insights of white nationalism, but provides it with a cultural and historical framework that appeals to the mass of middle-class white people.
Whether such a movement can get going is open to debate. The history of white populism is now a nightmare from which we cannot awake. Any effort to speak of white interests brings all of the usual suspects from past failed efforts into the mix. It’s as if all the parties enjoy playing the roles that have been created for them. The arc of white politics in America is looking like an immutable law of nature. It may require whites reaching minority status for the pattern to break.
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