Stephen Walt at Foreign Policy has a post Lessons from the Weimar Republic (updated).
The lesson I took from Craig’s lecture was that when intellectuals abandon liberal principles, disengage from politics, and generally abdicate their role as “truth-tellers” for society at large, it is easy for demagogues to play upon human fears and lead a society over the brink to disaster.
I will be the first to blame the mass media for not letting the voices of the left on the air, but, I also have to blame the professors, the analysts and the rest who have not found a way to make their voices more public. Back in January I wrote a post Marching Towards Toxic Populism, since then we have seen the effects of the toxic march by the right. We dismiss them as light weight thinkers, but we forget how the easy narrative resonates with people. Particularly when people are in dire economic times, times with little or no chance of things improving, the voices get more toxic, more xenophobic, more anti their current leadership.
Yet, team Obama, did not pay attention. Meanwhile, back in the Senate and the House, the populist voices from the left died, or were marginalized. A party cannot have just one figure head, it needs multiple voices.
I regret that just as Hillary Clinton, was finding a populist voice, she was sent off to be the Secretary of State, when we needed a tough Democratic voice in the Senate. Team Obama, may have wanted her out of the way, they may have thought she was less of a threat, but this is where politicians get it wrong, she would have given voice to the Democratic side.
Who knows, I may be wrong, but I was not wrong about the threat of toxic populism. The cat is out of the bag and those who toy with the devil of the toxic right, have few if any leadership skills or qualities to contain their upswing. America has a history of toxic populism. The people screaming “We Want Our Country Back”, never owned said country, they were always marginal. But, the toxic populists, are fueling the age old lies. The Democratic Party should not have fallen in lock step by shutting down the voices all the other voices. But, still the President and his team complain about the left, when he and his handlers gave the whole game to the right.