B.S. from Blair

Really, why would anyone take Tony Blair seriously? Absent any serious, honest process of re-evaluation and self-criticism on Blair’s part, that is (and there has been none).

First, Blair’s arguments are unhinged and all over the place. He asserts that for those of us in the USA: “You have a resiliency in your institutions that will pull you through.” Other than a generic mention of “checks and balances,” no specific examples of those resiliencies are offered. Instead, Blair changes the subject to the economy. Well, sorry, the economy isn’t really a political institution, and just because it’s doing well today doesn’t mean it always will (remember the crash of 2008). In fact, the public debt is exploding in the USA, and the very limited measures passed in the wake of the last crash are being undone. The road to another crash has been well-paved, and when it happens the government won’t have the fiscal breathing space to deal with it.

Then Blair starts wringing his hands about populism. When elites are puzzled by the appeal of populism, they need to take a good long look in the mirror. Despite all his lies on particular issues, in a very important meta-narrative Trump was more honest than any other 2016 candidate save Bernie Sanders. The system is rigged against the many, and has been for a long time. Ever since the 1970’s, inequality has increased. People are not nuts for perceiving they are being left behind. That goes particularly for those who have been the big losers in international trade deals, because the pain has been disproportionately doled out to them.

It goes beyond mere economics, too. Blair’s signing onto the Iraq War is a textbook example of that: being a moderate, he assumed that the right just had to be correct about things a certain proportion of the time, and one of those times was Iraq. If Cliff Mass claims 2 + 2 = 4.5, then Tony Blair was claiming that in the case of Iraq 2 + 2 = 5, because he had asserted the answer was uncomfortably close to 4 enough times in the past that it was time to up his running average.

Trump’s fascist faux-populism (it’s not really in the interests of the masses, nor does it even have majority popular support) is definitely not the answer. Thomas Frank is correct: the problem is not populism, but elitism. The nominally “left” parties in most democracies have been badly infested with it (and Blarite politics is an instance of this). Populism, an honest left-wing populism based on factual criticisms of power, privilege, inequality, and injustice, is not the disease: it is the cure.

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