Saturday, November 02, 2019

Unmasking A False Populist

When three months ago historian and author Gregg Cantrell examined the inaccurate application of the label "populist" to Donald Trump, he wrote

.... most of the original Populists would be appalled to see the p-word applied to right-wing demagogues, autocrats and con-men. They would be heartened, however, to hear some of the rhetoric coming from progressives like Warren. Plans to curb the power of the large banks, big pharma, the oil companies and the increasingly monopolistic tech companies would resonate with Nugent, Rayner and Kearby. These proposals point to how liberals can, with a proper understanding of history, reclaim the mantle of the first Populists and restore the label — and the ideas that accompanied it — to the position of honor that it deserves.

The mainstream media won't buy it, but the road to presidential electoral success in the upper Midwest and environs may not primarily run through slumming in diners in central Pennsylvania or embracing private health insure companies. President Trump has given voters plenty of reason to recognize him as an old time Republican plutocrat while sporting a foul mouth and stirring up bigotry and ethnic resentment, partially as diversion.

The most recent example comes by allowing coal plants to unleash toxic pollutants into the air. In what Will Bunch characterizes as "another win for Big Arsenic," The New York Times reports

The Trump administration is expected to roll back an Obama-era regulation meant to limit the leaching of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury into water supplies from the ash of coal-fired power plants, according to two people familiar with the plans.

With a series of new rules expected in the coming days, the Environmental Protection Agency will move to weaken the 2015 regulation that would have strengthened inspection and monitoring at coal plants, lowered acceptable levels of toxic effluent and required plants to install new technology to protect water supplies from contaminated coal ash.

The E.P.A. will relax some of those requirements and exempt a significant number of power plants from any of the requirements, according to the two people familiar with the Trump administration plan, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the new rules.

The move is part of a series of deregulatory efforts by the Trump administration aimed at extending the lives of old, coal-fired power plants that have been shutting down in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy generators. Coal ash, the residue produced from burning coal, was dumped for years in holding areas near power plants, largely without regulation, but it came to the public’s attention after spills in North Carolina and Tennessee sent mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals from the ash into water supplies.

Deriding the Trump goal of enriching corporate titans at the expense of the public would be only a small part of a comprehensive strategy for Democrats. But it's one which has been avoided by all the presidential candidates, even Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who would be most philosophically inclined to make the argument. It would remind voters that Democrats, aside from being supportive of blacks, legal immigrants, labor, the LGBTQIA community,criminal offenders, actors, and others, speak for Americans as Americans. With changing demographics, it might not be necessary- but neither was it thought necessary in 2016.

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