In a recent report (September 4, 2015) on NPR titled “Nativism And Economic Anxiety Fuel Trump’s Populist Appeal,” Maria Liasson seeks to explain the sudden and immense popularity—against all odds—of Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side of the aisle and, of course, of Donald Trump on the Republican side of the aisle.
In each case, these candidates are tapping into the zeitgeist of the American voters in the early battleground states and elsewhere. Worries about our pocketbooks and anxiety over the shifting demographics of the US are fueling what many pundits view as unlikely candidacies. How do these key issues play out in the election to date? Focusing on Trump’s campaign, Liasson explains,
As Michael Lind of the New America Foundation points out, the populist world view sees a division not between rich and poor but between producers and parasites. And that’s why Trump’s supporters hold in equal contempt Wall Street financiers who got a bailout and undocumented immigrants who broke the law.
In their eyes, both groups are cheaters and parasites. That’s why it makes perfect sense for Trump to call for a big wall on the Mexican border and for higher taxes for hedge-fund managers. Some of his positions — like higher tariffs, an end to tax breaks for hedge funds, and protections for entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security — are challenging Republican orthodoxy. Some of them would even be right at home on Bernie Sanders’ website. But populism is often a mashup of positions from the left and right.
It seems many in the muddy Evangelical middle that sympathized with the Tea Party find themselves splashing in the puddle of this new-fangled populism—most particularly on the Republican side.