In reacting to Eric Cantor’s primary defeat, Digby reprises some thoughts on nativism she wrote several years ago. Consider:
To put together this great new populist revival everybody’s talking about, where we get the boys in the pick-up trucks to start voting their “self-interest,” we’re probably going to need to get up a new nativist movement to go along with it. That’s pretty much how populism has always been played in the past, particularly in the south. Certainly, you can rail against the moneyed elites, but there is little evidence that it will work unless you provide somebody on the bottom that the good ole boys can really stomp.
These dual strains of right-wing populism were on display in the person of Cantor’s victorious opponent, David Brat, who simultaneously railed against Wall Street and, in this case, immigrants of a darker hue. I am reminded of another popular movement of last century. You may remember him. His first name was Adolph.
Hitler based is entire campaign on the Jews. In his twisted brain they were the living avatars of both wealth and filth.
I recall Eric Fromm’s Escape From Freedom, wherein he posited that Weimar Germans longed for the iron-fisted ways of their previous grand unifier, Bismarck. Following the defeat of Germany in the first world war and the allies’ fateful decision to exact reparations, the political climate was ripe for another strong leader, one who would restore Germany’s position atop Europe and, what the heck, the rest of the world. The Germans, Fromm surmised, found life too uncertain untethered from the Bismarckian womb. It was culturally necessary for Germans to know their place, who was above and, more critically, who was below. Hitler offered the Aryan race as the pinnacle of human evolution, and however low one might be in the pecking order, there were always the Jews at the bottom.
Prick a modern Tea Partier and one finds the same nativist sentiment, the itching to stomp on perceived inferiors while blaming financial elites for their own mediocre positions. Yes, it’s important for right-wing nativists to feel victimized by moneyed interests. But it’s even more important to fear and hate the encroaching vermin.