A few days ago the new St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial writer, Tod Robberson, wrote a signed opinion piece (an op-ed? or an editorial?), “Path to nowhere” (March 2) , that made absolutely no distinction between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; in fact, Robberson spoke of the two as if they were interchangeable. Seems that if you use the word “rage,” you don’t need to do any further analysis of the very different Trump and Sanders phenomena, certainly no comparison of policy proposals (or in this case, policy proposals (Sanders) and rhetoric (Trump)).
This poorly researched and written piece angered me, but I assumed that it was part of the new “centrist” direction which threatens the once excellent Post-Dispatch editorial page. Turns out it upset lots of very articulate readers as well.
To summarize briefly, the biggest take-away from two of the letters is is that “populism,” a term that Robberson uses exclusively as a pejorative, doesn’t always mean the same thing. It can refer to the successful and serious the populist movement of the first two decades of the 20th century, endorsed by Teddy Roosevelt, and responsible for many of the government-mandated protections we now enjoy. Then there’s the demogogic, nativist and racist populism exemplified by rabble-rousers like the Facist Father Coughlin and Louisiana’s Huey Long. Guess which populism Sanders and Trump respectively embody? Easy, no? Then try to figure out how any fool could talk about them as if they were interchangeable. This last point was stressed in one of the letters which dealt with Sanders’ healthcare policies.
Of course, we don’t need to analyze the follies of Robberson’s ham-handed hackery. These letter writers did it for us and did it very well indeed. For those of you who don’t have access to the Post-Dispatch or who haven’t yet read today’s opinion page, look for yourselves, enjoy and learn:
- Comparisons of Sanders lack historical perspective.
- Sanders proposes to remove the health care middle man