Progressives, who sometimes have great difficulty making proper distinctions between populism and progressivism, may want to take a gander at populism Trump style, which appears to be a toxic combination of demagoguery laced with ineffable stupidity.
Here is the sad tale according to Charles Cooke of National Review:
“US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said it is a 'great honor' to receive a compliment from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The property tycoon hailed Mr. Putin as a man 'highly respected within his own country and beyond.' It comes after Mr. Putin said Mr. Trump was a 'very colorful, talented person' during his annual news conference...
“Just a few hours ago, Trump confessed exactly that. He was not caught in a 'gotcha.' He was not misquoted. He was not led down the garden path by the ‘liberal or ‘mainstream’ or ‘pro-Obama’ media. Rather, he said, as plain as day, that he has ‘always felt fine about Putin’; he called him ‘strong’ and a ‘powerful leader’; and he suggested that he should be respected for his ‘popularity within his country.’ Nothing could pry him from this reverence. When it was pointed out to him that Putin is a man who ‘kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries,’ Trump said flatly, ‘At least he’s a leader,’ which I can only imagine sounds an awful lot better in the original German. Then, for good measure, he took aim at the American system: ‘Unlike,’ he added, ‘what we have in this country.’”
It fell to Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe to point out to Mr. Trump that his amorata, President Vladimir Putin, formerly a KGB agent, the butcher of Ukraine and bosom pal of Bashar al-Assad, whose father was also a butcher of Syria, is “also a person that kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries.”
Mr. Scarborough asked his guest, whether he thought “that would be a concern.”
Trump: “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader. You know, unlike what we have in this country.”
Scarborough: “But again, he kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”
Trump: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity and that’s the way it is.”
Mr. Trump is probably the only politician in the United States, though he has confessed he is new to the political game, who can survive an all-night rhetorical binge and emerge in the morning raring to meet the press. There is no mare’s nest of his own making from which he will not try, so far successfully, to extricate himself – for, see you, Mr. Trump is a populist, and populists who are popular receive from the media fewer yanks on the hangman’s noose than do, say, brothers of presidents running for president or articulate conservatives.
Mr. Trump likes Mr. Putin because the ex-KGB agent is popular in Russia; Mr. Trump, should he succeed to the presidency, hopes to be popular in Russia, though for different reasons of course; and, no, Mr. Trump was not suggesting that Mr. Putin was stupid, a sliver of the vast stupidity in the world, or even affected by the stupidity, a sort of mental flu, that appears to be making the rounds among Republican presidential aspirants, all of whom are much stupider and far less rich than Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump’s sad suspicions about Republicans, not to mention the other dark corners of our stupid Republic, may be confirmed should he be nominated by the Republican convention as their bell-weather -- because Mr. Trump is not a Republican or a conservative. And he may have more in common with Mr. Putin than he or anyone else knows.
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.