Constituent Buy-In Fostering Capitulation to Autocratic Rule
November 5, 2019 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Rising autocrats are usually facilitated by politicians who are caught up in the credo (i.e. believers) and/or at direct material stake (i.e. paid off). Is there much historic precedent for privately disgusted representative leaders falling hostage to constituent buy-in to the populist b.s.?
posted by Quisp Lover to Law & Government (7 answers total)
 
Isn't that exactly what happened in the Trump+Teaparty takeover of the Republican Party? Elected Republicans who were spouting the crazy line to garner support suddenly found themselves overwhelmed by constituents and a President who actually believed it.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:57 AM on November 5, 2019


Isn't that exactly what happened in the Trump+Teaparty takeover of the Republican Party?

Right, that's at least supposedly what's happening. I think the OP is trying to judge the plausibility of this explanation by looking for historical examples of elected representatives reluctantly bowing to populist pressure. However, I think that we're only likely to see this dynamic in governments where at most two parties are dominant, as in multiparty parliamentary systems, populism tends to manifest as members of small, radical parties pushing out members of established, moderate parties. So, I think that absence of evidence should not be taken as evidence of absence in this case.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:30 PM on November 5, 2019


Watch Setting the Woods on Fire. It’s a documentary on George Wallace that makes this exact argument. He was endorsed my the NAACP in his first race, and lost. He decided that anti-black rhetoric was a necessary buy-in for Southern politics, and thought it was better to embrace it.
posted by politikitty at 12:52 PM on November 5, 2019


I think the dynamic may be more complicated than this. The tea-party movement was created by GOP insiders like Dick Armey as a way to crystallize (mostly racist) resentment against Obama. It's fair to say that movement took on a life of its own. The same thing happened with the anti-abortion movement, which was created by Paul Weyrich to serve as an alternative to racist resentment, which in the 1970s was looking less and less like, shall we say, a trump card. Up until then, abortion was not a political issue in US politics, and major politicians like George HW Bush were pro-choice (until they weren't). Again, that movement has taken on a life of its own.

So it may be that, as often as not, the dynamic is more like "cynical political operative channels public resentment for his own purposes, creates a movement that takes on a life of its own, and then movement members move in to politics." This hasn't always led to aspiring autocrats, at least not in US history, but I think each time this happens, the incumbent political class is probably surprised to find themselves surrounded by newcomers bringing new ideas.
posted by adamrice at 1:53 PM on November 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ghostride the whip paraphrases adamrices' comment above extremely well in 2014
posted by lalochezia at 7:42 PM on November 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Arguably this phenomenon occurred to some extent in the rise of Julius Caesar and the end of the Roman republic. Perhaps it's somewhat debatable how much the Roman Senate was "representative" of the people, but certainly many Senators were disgusted by and strongly opposed to Caesar's populism, but he was wildly popular with most of the common people of Rome, and to some extent the Senators who opposed him had to swallow that opposition as his political power and popularity grew and their own waned, in order to preserve what power they still held.
posted by biogeo at 8:52 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


> the dynamic is more like "cynical political operative channels public resentment for his own purposes, creates a movement that takes on a life of its own, and then movement members move in to politics."

which is essentially the story of brexit - one perfectly plausible account of which being that until 2015, debate around the UK's EU membership was largely a fringe issue on the right of the Conservative party & its antagonists in what was then UKIP, but of very limited interest to the general population until was forced into mainstream discourse by David Cameron's inability to solve his own internal party-discipline issues
posted by rd45 at 1:38 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


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