Here is a definition of populism:
- S: (n) populism (the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite). [From wordnet via Princeton U.]
Given this definition, I can see why more than a few people might find the word almost useless with regard to the victory of Trump’s campaign.
First, Trump is of the privileged elite, obviously, and second, he wallows in this status in front of his followers. Why the working-class sector of his followers celebrate his elitism has answers in studies of psychology, racism, misogyny, White Supremacy, mass media, and American history. Second, perhaps they also truly believe he will represent and support their “struggle with the privileged elite; if so, then Pseudocracy did indeed triumph in this election. Online, I’ve seen the term “drain the swamp” used by his supporters. It is of course mostly an empty signifier, ready to be deployed in the service of blind rage and cultivated ignorance. But even if we agree that it can refer to replacing elite insiders in government with commoners, it remains preposterous. Most of Trump’s announced appointees seem to have spent a lot of time in the swamp.
I wonder if it’s also likely that Trumpster populism is actually anti-populism, a reaction against the demographic shifts in “the populace” that are making it less White, less Christian. Trump’s loss of the popular vote may support this conjecture, and at any rate, the loss is certainly ironically counter-populists. Trump’s obvious taste for authoritarianism and bullying help the irony to spike.
At the moment, I don’t see any effective means for opposing Trump’s anti-populist scheme to pimp the rage that springs from angry ignorance and ignorant anger. For one thing, his anti-populism relies on a disdain for facts, hallucinations induced by slogans (“Lock her up!”), and a depraved indifference to sensible solutions. A cult-leader, Trump will probably not have to face any serious consequences for failing miserably to address material conditions unfavorable to those not wealthy, those not elite, and he will continue to benefit from expressed, livid opposition to parts of the populace that struggle mightily: many immigrants, many African Americans, many LGBTQ persons, many Muslims, and many women.