Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Caligula's Horse.

When the doomed and befeebled John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in the race of '08 there was plenty of criticism in the press. Alexander Cockburn, witty as ever, saw the point of this selection and summed it up immediately.

Pundits murmur that McCain has blown the “inexperience” argument against Obama by picking a young Alaskan governor, not so long ago the mayor of Wasila. I don’t think Americans have much patience with that kind of talk. Who needs experience in foreign affairs in the White House, since the major decisions are taken in Jerusalem and relayed through AIPAC? And anyway, Palin does have experience dealing with oil companies, the other major lobby dictating America’s foreign policies. No chord in populism reverberates more strongly than the notion that the robust common sense of an unstained outsider is the best medicine for an ailing polity. Caligula doubtless got big cheers from the plebs when he installed his horse as proconsul.

It's more than a comment on Palin alone. Cockburn strikes at one of the major tropes of reactionary populism wherever it takes hold. The populism of the Right is the universalism of the 'little man', of the petit-bourgeois social climber, the claim of the middle-class to represent a universal class, free and devoid of sectional or even private interest.

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