Caleb Stegall Prophesied The Trumpening
No, really. Back in 2006, I commissioned Caleb to write a piece for the Dallas Morning News about prospects for American populism. Here’s a link to the piece. In it, he describes a country ripe for a new kind of populism, and offers a model. Excerpt:
There’s an irony inherent in a system like our own that identifies the individual as the fundamental unit of political, social and economic order. Because it shears the individual of the republican virtues cultivated within communities of tradition in the name of empowering him, it actually makes the individual subject to tyranny. Limitless emancipation in the name of progress is, it turns out, the final and most binding mechanism of control.
When the oldest sources of order – which are at root religious – are abandoned along with their traditions and taboos, the resulting void of meaning is by necessity filled with some ideology promising one form or another of perfect happiness in the here and now. And these systems of self-salvation creep not toward liberation, but toward total control.
Populism in its progressive form is not immune from this utopian yearning, which must always end in disaster. So our neopopulist moment ought to be approached with sober awareness that an angry mob is probably worse than a corrupt bureaucrat. The same bureaucrat who has harnessed the anger of the mob with progressive dreams is far more terrible than both.
What is called for is an anti-progressive populism; an anti-movement movement; a return to what is near, known and particular. What is called for is what I think of as regional populism. Its first political task will be to rediscover the ways citizens of the old American republic used to think and talk.
It may be too late, things too far gone, for the kind of Anti-Federalist regional populism I am describing to become politically viable in our day. If so, we will likely be tossed between the tyranny of a militantly nationalist populism and the stifling bureaucratic rule of a progressively universalizing liberalism. Neither is a welcome alternative.
Read the whole thing. He’s just described the Trump/Clinton election.
As you know, I’m in the mountains of Umbria this week, and far from the American political scene. But reading Google news and my Twitter feed, Trump’s shtick is getting awfully stale.