Revealing The Secret Behind Populist Sleight-Of-Hand

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Happy New Year!  Now that you’ve had your holiday helpings of political report cards and predictions that are almost certain to not come true, I thought I would kick off 2019 with a description of this year’s political arc as it will actually happen, not as the pundits would like it to happen.

First of all, the inadequacy of the liberal world order is even more glaring and apparent than it was at the dawn of 2018.  The experts, policy wonks and technocratic nudgers are all failing to make the grade, especially since the populace is more spoiled and entitled than ever.

The fundamental misunderstanding is, as always, that the darker side of human nature can be incentivized away with appeals to better angels and the right messaging from the PR wizards.  Hey presto! and the furious energy driving populist movements can be harnessed and channeled into supporting the elitist regimes that those movements say they wish to overthrow.

What a remarkable transformation!  But the trick is easily seen through.  Tapping the well of discontent is only a temporary measure.  The wizards do not see, or will not admit, that their task is impossible: the audience is always wanting bigger and better tricks to distract them from their own deepening despair and unmet needs.

The wizards try to point out the failings of Doug Ford, acting as though “the whiff of scandal” will derail his government.  If you’re the NDP, circulating fundraising appeals criticizing “Scrooge McDoug” as you did during the holiday season, the next election is as good as won.  All you have to do is point out how much of a corrupt racist homophobic bully Doug FRAUD is and the voters will fall over themselves getting to the polls.

Except that’s not what the NDP really believes.  They believe the reason why Doug is Premier is because too many voters wanted a corrupt, racist, homophobic bully in office, and they want these deplorables disenfranchised and stripped of all rights and holdings, which will then be permanently redistributed to the more enlightened segments of society.

On the other side of the aisle, the CPC has been doing a marginally better job.  They at least understand that a battle must be fought to drive Trudeau from office.  But every time they set out to fight that battle, they find that the Liberals are constantly better armed and better trained than they are, and then make some sort of clumsy overture to the Maxime Bernier crowd.

But not only are their wizards lacking in magical mysterious messaging power, they are unwilling to divine the source of this lack: that the conservative movement in Canada is a two-headed monster, without a single common denominator other than partisan hatred of Trudeau.

Of course, the CPC actually knows this, as does the NDP.  It’s the guilty secret that nobody acknowledges (well, except for me, of course).  But both parties have swallowed the Liberal bait.  To confront the less palatable facts of the situation, or to push them on Canadians, is something they would prefer not to do.  They have fallen prey to magical thinking – that Trudeau was a mistake, that voters will overlook their obvious flaws, that a silent majority of Canadians is with them.

Power is what the technocrat-wizards have and crave, as it’s the only thing that keeps them from behaving like the populist savages they despise.  As such, it is the power held by the mob that they wish to confiscate before it destroys them.  And they cannot admit the truth, because that would mean that they do not know everything, and that would be the ultimate loss of power.

And… that’s really it.  Don’t expect things to change, because the best confidence tricks have the audience buying in, even if they really don’t want to or if their conscious minds are telling them it’s all a work.  For this show can only go on if enough voters pay the price of admission, be it actively or passively, and we’ll have no shortage of moments throughout 2019 where it’s clear that the magician’s tricks are working with the help of volunteers from the audience.

More from Josh Lieblein.     @JustJoshinYa

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