©Erick Kaardal, 2010
I am a messenger of bad news: death.
Rationalism’s enlightened search for objective truth is dead.
The government’s enlightened search for the truth in every area of our lives is dead.
Political science is dead. Its enlightened search for studying politics to maximize its usefulness for the people’s utility is dead.
Economics is dead. Its enlightened search for a maximization of the people’s utility is dead.
Ideology is dead. Its enlightened search for the perfect ideology to serve the people is dead.
Partisanship is dead. Its enlightened search for the perfect political party and political candidate is dead.
Expertism is dead. The expert’s enlightened search for truth is dead.
Politics is dead – reduced to an ugly garbage dump of dead rationalism: political science, economics, ideology, partisanship, expertism – uhhh, it’s messy, ugly, stinky.
Concurrently, the great conservative myth of the statesman searching for objective truth as an independent moral agent, affirmed in Edmund Burke’s Letter to the Sheriff of Bristol County, Russel Kirk’s Conservative Mind, George Will’s Statecraft is Soulcraft, on and on and on, is dead.
Dialogue between the people and government is dead — reduced by expertism, ideology and partisanship to meaningless chatter between experts with intermittent changes of volume preceding and following regularly-scheduled elections. Dead.
Debate among the people is dead – replaced by misplaced deference to cultural and political experts and misplaced loyalties to fellow ideologues and partisans. Dead.
Even more disturbing, in this intolerable situation, the people choose to continue to defer as slaves to the rationalist “enlightened search for objective truth” and its various manifestations. Dead.
The people continue to defer to the government’s experts, the political scientists, the economists, the ideologues, the partisans, the experts, the politicians, the statesmen. Dead.
In so doing, the people worship a messy, ugly, stinky garbage dump of rationalist death.
In so doing, the people have lost their knowledge.
In so doing, the people have lost their virtue.
And, above all, the people’s culture is debased.
Listen, carefully, to the words of American Revolutionary Patriot Samuel Adams from the grave:
A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy…. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader….
No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.
We are, my brothers and sisters, a universally ignorant and debauched people, we have sunk under own weight without the aid of foreign invaders. We have succumbed to the devil in the Modern Rationalist Tradition.
Again, from the grave, Samuel Adams speaks to us:
The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.
We, my brothers and sisters, this present generation risk an everlasting mark of infamy because we are allowing this nation to be cheated out of its American inheritance by the artifices of false and designing men – and without a fight as we sit and worship a garbage dump of rationalism.
Are you, are we, going to do something about it?
Again, from the grave, Samuel Adam writes:
If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.
Introduction to New Populism
Good evening, my name is Erick Kaardal. I am a new populist — an evangelist. I am not here to inform you, educate you, or persuade you. I am here to save you from the damnation of the government’s and our culture’s rationalist tradition.
The Rationalist Tradition is based on a search for objective truth separate from any tradition – a tradition-independent truth. New populists hold that rationalists have a tradition despite their claims to be tradition-independent. There is no objective truth separate from a tradition. New populists identify rationalism as a tradition determined to kill America’s broadly understood democratic and religious tradition.
By neopopulist definition, a tradition is merely an agreement to use language in a certain way to describe human experience. Thus there are many traditions: a Democratic tradition, a Socialist tradition, a Rationalist tradition, a Christian tradition, a Muslim tradition, a Jewish tradition, etc. I suppose it only takes a few people to start a tradition. But, the more important traditions appear to be those that have been around awhile and have many adherents.
At a meta- or national level, traditions can differ on meta-values such as freedom and equality. America’s broad democratic and religious tradition is very respectful of other traditions. The U.S.S.R’s communist tradition violated the meta-values of freedom and equality for other traditions. America’s rationalist tradition also fails on the test of freedom and equality because it is hostile to America’s broad democratic and religious tradition.
Sometimes the references to traditions are referred to by neopopulists as the Moses Principle. The Moses Priniciple is that a person has a duty within their tradition to identify when another tradition is trying to kill and suppress that person’s tradition. Moses in Biblical times represented the Jewish tradition. The Pharaoh had his own religious tradition. When Moses asked Pharaoh that his people go to the wilderness and pray for three days, Pharaoh refused, increased their workload and commanded them not to stand and around and listen to glib speeches. Moses recognized that Pharaoh was trying to impose his tradition on the Jewish people.
Similarly, the Rationalist Tradition in the United States is trying to kill the broad democratic and religious tradition in the United States. The government does not want patriots of this Tradition going to the wilderness to pray. The government does not want the patriots of this Tradition to be organizing – or standing around and listening to “glib speeches.” (perhaps like this one)
So, as a neopopulist, I am a hyper-realist. I am here to tell you that the Rationalist Tradition as a tradition has ruined our nation, ruined our culture and ruined our people.
Our biggest mistake would be to continue to operate within this paradigm. You need to understand that the Republic is dead. There is no representative democracy any more. The people have lost control of their representatives – their government – their culture.
Consequently, the people are losing democratic hope – losing hope than they can govern themselves.
Something dramatic must be done. So join us. Leave the old rationalist paradigm and join the new populist paradigm.
The moment we begin to understand that it is crazy to dialogue and debate with the Modern Rationalist Tradition, our tradition’s mortal enemy, the sooner the phoenix will rise from the ashes: new populist counterculture.
It’s the counterculture, stupid!
Creating Counterculture: The Neopopulist Hypothesis
We as neopopulists have a simple hypothesis. If the people separate their minds from the experts, it will lead to America’s first renaissance: a new counterculture. “Hypothesis” according to the storebook dictionary definition means “tentative explanation.” The neopopulist hypothesis, thus, is a tentative explanation of how to fix America.
The neopopulist hypothesis is simple. American culture is riddled with fallacies – false ideas. Our culture is particularly impaired by rationalistic, ideological, partisan and intellectual reductionism. Such reductionism has deformed the people, their language, their knowledge, their democracy and their culture. Our culture and government should mirror who the people are – in the best sense. However, today, when the people look in their cultural and political mirrors, they are embarassed of the mediocrity that they have allowed themselves to become — the ugliness. The people are embarrassed by the “mediocrity” they see – the “mediocrity” they have created.
The people understand that they are responsible for the cultural and political leviathan they created. But, how did it happen? It happened because the people have deferred to “experts” in every cultural and political subject matter. The people believe that the expert’s technical language is to be preferred over the people’s ordinary language. The people believe, with the experts, that knowledge is personal and occult and inaccessible to those on Main Street. The people believe only the government has the required expertise to manage the people.
Ultimately, that is what the people have come to want in our modern world: to be managed. But do the people really want to be managed by their government? Or is this result caused by their weaknesses — exploited by the experts? If the people could have it, would they want to manage the government into compliance with their shared values?
It is in this cultural and political environment of ambiguity that neopopulist counterculture is necessary. The manly question to be asked is not “What is the objective truth?” No, it is “Who is making the decisions around here?” The neopopulist demands that the people – not the rationalist experts – make the cultural and political decisions. The neopopulist asserts his tradition against the rationalist tradition – knowing it is a duel to the death.
After all, what if one-by-one, people rejected the experts? If one-by-one, a person declared the Neopopulist Declaration of Independence from Experts. First, I will separate my mind from the minds of the experts. Second, I reject the expert’s technical language. Third, knowledge is not personal and occult – it is accessible to all and should be diffused. Fourth, I embrace the people, their ordinary language and their shared knowledge. Fifth, I work with my neighbors against the government and against the prevailing culture to bring to bear my neopopulist view of the world. Sixth, ultimately, what each of these neopopulists wants, nay, demands, in the post-modern world, is that the people manage the government — not the other way round.
The neopopulist counterculture will succeed or fail based on whether it matters that the people have separated their minds from the experts. The neopopulist hunch is that if the people separate their minds from the experts and if the people manage the government instead of the government managing the people, America’s first renaissance will occur.
In this way, neopopulists are progressives. The storebook dictionary definition of “progressive” is “favoring progress, reform, etc.” Neopopulists are all of that definition and more because neopopulists believe that the neopopulist hypothesis will lead to grand reform — America’s first renaissance.
In fact, if neopopulist counterculture succeeds, America will experience its first renaissance — rivaling the renaissance experience in Europe. The people, their culture and politics, will flourish. The ugliness of all of the expert’s technical language will give way to the beauty of the people’s ordinary language. Poetry will be restored to its proper place. The technical manual will be put in its proper place. The ugliness of bureaucratic personal and occult knowledge will give way to the beauty of the people’s shared knowledge. The people will be restored to their proper place. The bureaucracy will be put in its proper place.
The key pre-condition to test the neopopulist counterculture is democracy. Because without democracy, the only option – as Samuel Adams knew – would be an armed populist revolution — as this nation was founded in 1776. So, with neopopulist counterculture, it is important when people separate their minds from the experts, there must be means of democratic participation available — “democratic means” — to test the efficacy of their neopopulist will against the government and against rationalist culture. The democratic means allows a person to assert his or her neopopulist will on the government and on the rationalist culture.
The government controls so many – to partially borrow a Marxist phrase — means of cultural production that it is a manly exercise of neopopulist counterculture simply for the people to assert control of government-funded and operated means of cultural production – including the government schools. The people must take the means of cultural production away from the experts and away from the government. Instead, the people must manage the means of cultural production by their own lights – and stop deferring to the lights of rationalist experts.
Will government and culture change if the people assert their neopopulist will peacefully upon it? Yes, but to do so, the people must have democratic means to use to assert their will against the government and to change culture. If there are no democratic means, there is no experiment. Armed revolution, as in 1776, is the only choice.
That is why neopopulists hate democratic deficits. Democratic deficits exist where procedures preclude the people managing the government. The battle over democratic deficits is between the experts who want democratic deficits and the people who should hate democratic deficits. By way of example, the European Union operates on a model that the European Parliment “advises” the expert-laden Commission on what laws and regulations should be put in effect. It is impossible to see under such a model that the neopopulist hypothesis would have any effect. The laws are so rigged with democratic deficits against the people managing their government that such management would never happen.
The United States has democratic deficits, but Congress is still “making” laws — not “advising” on laws as the European Parliament does. Nonetheless, America has huge democratic deficits relating to the federal government — where mere election of a President and Congress are taken to represent the people’s consent to the whole of federal government. As a consequence, virtually all people are precluded from meaningfully asserting the neopopulist hypothesis against the federal government because there aren’t democratic means available to the typical citizen to use.
However, at the state and local level, there are democratic means so the neopopulist hypothesis can fairly be tried. A person can go to a city council meeting, county board meeting or state legislative hearing to be heard. A person can attend these meetings and test the neopopulist hypothesis. So, because democratic means are available there (althought they should be expanded there as well as with the federal government), the experiment of testing the neopopulist hypothesis should begin at the state and local level one person at a time.
Neopopulism as a Rhetorical Platform Opposed to the Experts
Neopopulism is a risky, dangerous, yet chivalrous choice. It is also a radical choice against the governmental establishment. The choice is between something new and something old, something true and something false, something holistic and something reductionistic. The choice is between the people managing the government or the government managing you. This revolutionary approach requires you to separate your mind from the bureaucratic dragons, their experts, their politics and their culture.
Let’s use one example of a neopopulist to illustrate the point. This example includes all the requisites to test the neopopulist counterculture. There was a neopopulist named Greg Wersal of Minnesota. There were bureaucratic dragons embedded in the Minnesota Supreme Court, Lawyers Board and Judicial Board. Wersal, while running for state judicial office in 1998, found he had a disputed issue with these bureaucratic dragons. The disputed issue was the government’s bans on judicial campaign speech including a ban on lawyer-candidates announcing their views on “disputed legal and political issues.” Wersal relied on the people’s ordinary language and shared knowledge about elections to make his constitutional arguments against the bureaucratic dragons. Minnesota’s judicial experts used every bureaucratic dragon available to them to win over the public and court.
Wersal’s actions in 1998 were revolutionary acts. Wersal separated his mind from the experts — a revolutionary act. Wersal adopted the neopopulist hypothesis — a revolutionary act. Wersal obviously had a neopopulist hope in 1998, perhaps a fool’s hope, that he might make a difference. Nonetheless, Wersal engaged in the neopopulist experiment. In doing so, Wersal witnessed his own neopopulist revolution. Success or failure of the neopopulist hypothesis, of course, depended not on Wersal, whose involvement was necessary, but rather on how the government responded to Wersal’s claim. But, regardless of how the government responded, Wersal was a neopopulist — that is a winner.
Minnesota’s judicial experts responded horribly to Wersal’s claims — basically denying that the First Amendment applies to state judicial elections. Wersal, thus, sued in federal court. He lost in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. But, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 granted Wersal’s petition for writ of certiorari, heard oral argument and decided the case. Wersal won the case by five votes to four votes. The U.S. Supreme Court found that Minnesota’s bureaucratic dragons violated the U.S. Constitution. Wersal’s neopopulist arguments carried the day in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The point that neopopulists would make in the Wersal case is that Wersal not only fixed Minnesota’s judicial elections; Wersal also redeemed the American political system. For the years the lawsuit was pending, Minnesota’s judicial experts, establishment and press claimed that Wersal was ruining Minnesota’s judicial system by challenging its rules. Again and again, they pilloried Wersal for bringing his “frivolous” case. Wersal was considered the proverbial “crank.” Not only did Wersal persevere, Wersal used the democratic means available — including courts and the media — to make his case against the bureaucratic dragons. By acting the way he did — as a neopopulist — he changed his government, our government, permanently.
As this example illustrates, neopopulism is a post-modern, fallacy-free rhetorical platform for use against bureaucratic dragons and experts in the political and cultural arena. Neopopulists believe that American politics and culture suffers under experts and their fallacious reasoning. The fallacious reasoning has been spawned by a modern brew of ideology, partisanship, rationalism and intellectualism.
New populism’s healthy response is to present a rhetorical platform which is democratically constructive but abhors all the fallacies. This new rhetorical platform embraces the truth, logic, reason and persuasion, but abhors the modern expert fallacies of ideology, partisanship, rationalism and intellectualism. These major bureaucratic dragons need to be slayed by our new, chivalrous neopopulist knights. The new rhetorical platform to slay all the bureaucratic dragons: neopopulism.
Other Neopopulist Cases
Wersal case was fighting against state bureaucrats. I’ve been involved in about 30 new populist lawsuits – which can be reviewed at neopopulism.org, but let me mention two others at different levels of government:
Gravel driveway case (fighting against Town Hall bureaucrates): Keith Kieffer
Mdewakanton case (fighting against Federal bureaucrats): Wolfchild case
Then, let me mention 3 other state cases:
End of Fiscal Biennium
No Political Heroes
Neopopulists don’t believe in political heroes. It believes in humility. This fact distinguishes populism from neopopulism.
Populism believes in political heroes. The populist political movements produce political heroes. Populism asks populists to worship its populist political heroes.
In turn, populist political heroes in our political system eventually become an ideological or partisan “brand.” Those that follow the political hero use the brand to advance their political careers and interests. Eventually, the ideological or partisan brand is updated or becomes outdated per new political conditions. In this way, populism is complementary with ideology and partisanship.
On the other hand, neopopulism is always opposed to ideology and partisanship because neopopulism doesn’t believe in political heroes. Neopopulists are not self-absorbed like populists. There will never be a neopopulist hall of fame. There is too much work to be done to ponder recognition of work in the past. There is no time to dwell on past good deeds. Neopopulism requires relentlessly pursuing progress — always.
From this perspective, one can see that populism, unlike neopopulism, can never be a proper foil to the Establishment. The Achilles’ heal of populism is that populist political heroes are always tempted to become part of the Establishment — despite what they say. There is an old saying that the people elect the politicians and Washington changes them. It’s true. The newly-elected populist Congressmen go to Washington and….. join the Establishment. It is true the populist political heroes become so self-absorbed, so narcisstic, that they willfully join the Establishment. Populism facilitates these conversions to the Establishment by promoting the narcissim.
Neopopulism hates political and cultural narcissim. Nothing in neopopulism develops political heroes who will eventually join the Establishment. It’s contradictory. It’s impossible. It doesn’t happen.
Battling Bureaucratic Experts? What Do the New Populists Do? A Revolution Based on Laptop Computers and Attitude – Please Join Us.
The easiest way that I have found to explain the revolutionary tactics of neopopulism in battling bureaucracy is to half-heartedly use the scientific method. That is it is an easy way to organize and communicate how to battle bureaucracy. There could be other ways – but this is the best way I have found.
First, the experiment requires materials. The first thing needed is at least one neopopulist and at least one expert. In our culture and government, everyone seems to be an expert, so there is an abundance of those. The problem will be locating a neopopulist who has separated his or her mind from those of the experts. Once a neopopulist is located, then the materials required for the experiment are at hand.
The second step is locating the laboratory for the experiment. As mentioned above, it is unlikely that the federal government with its democratic deficits will offer many opportunities. At the state and local level, however, there are a plenitude of opportunities. Check for meetings and hearings at the state, county and city level to see what items may be on their agenda. Relate this information back to the neopopulist to see which issues are best suited for the neopopulist to attempt to assert his will against the experts.
The third step is ensuring that there is a dispute between the neopopulist and the government’s expert. It is the most difficult step in the scientific procedure listed here. It also the most important because there must be a dispute between the neopopulist and the government’s expert so that the government is put into a position where it must choose between following the neopopulist or following the government’s own expert. The data obtained from the experiment will be of a better quality if the disputed issue is one that clearly presents a choice between truth and fallacy. So, the government will be put in the toughest position if the government’s expert has embraced fallacy and the neopopulist has embraced truth. The best data for the experiment will come from these situations where the government will either (i) follow its expert and embrace fallacy or (ii) follow the neopopulist and embrace truth.
The fourth step is preparation. Every issue to come before a governmental body requires some sort of reading, analysis or thought. The neopopulist must be prepared to speak on the issue chosen. The neopopulist must be as prepared as the government expert on the issue chosen. The neopopulist must be prepared to make an excellent presentation. The idea is that there be a clash between the neopopulist presentation and the government expert’s presentation. The government must be presented with a difficult choice.
The fifth step is execution. The hearing or meeting is the experiment’s moment. The government expert presents his or her case to the government. The neopopulist presents his or her case to the government. The governent deliberates on the presentations. Then, the government makes its decisions to embrace or reject its own expert. The government makes its final decision. Done.
The sixth step is collection of data. The observer collects data on the presentations by the government’s expert and by the neopopulist, the government’s reactions to the presentations and the government’s final decision. Most scientific experiments also collect data from a control group. However, this experiment does not need a control group because the assumption can be made if the neopopulist had not shown up at the hearing, there is 100% probability that the government would follow its own expert’s advice. The point of collecting the data here is to record under what circumstances the government will still follow its expert. For example, when a neopopulist has made a presentation showing that the expert has relied on fallacy to make the expert’s case, what does the government do? If the government, under these circumstances, `rejects its experts, it tells us one thing. If the government, under these circumstances, does not reject its experts, it tells us another thing.
The seventh step is analyzing the data. Is the neopopulist hypothesis true? If a person becomes a neopopulist by separating his or her mind from those of the experts and challenges a government expert on a disputed issue because of fallacious reasoning, will the government ignore the government expert and embrace the neopopulist? If the data supports this proposition, then the neopopulist hypothesis is true. If the data shows, even under these circumstances, the government still defers to its own expert, then the neopopulist hypothesis is false.
The eighth can be the most humbling. If the government rejects the neopopulist’s position, the neopopulist must also consider all possible causes of failure. Basically, the neopopulist needs to do an autopsy on what killed the neopopulist effort. Was the neopopulist’s position the right position to take? Was it argued well? Were there mistakes made in the presentation or in the arguments? If these and other questions are all resolved in favor of the neopopulist’s argument and presentations, then the neopopulist can conclude it was the government’s fault that it could not separat from its experts and fallacies — but this conclusion should only be made after the autopsy is concluded.
Under these circumstances, if the neopopulist hypothesis is proven false once, then more experimentation would have to be done. Too many questions would remain. Why would a government defer to an expert engaging in fallacy? Is there any bases upon which a government would not follow its experts’ advice? How did the experts obtain so much power over the government? Future neopopulists then must design the next experiment to determine whether again the neopopulist hypothesis is proven false. If it is, then another experiment. If proven false again, then another experiment. This cycle will continue until the dispute between new populism and the Modern Rationalist Tradition is resolved.
The final step, really an afterthought because a neopopulist by definition is humble, is publishing the experiment, results and analysis in appropriate ways. Sharing in this way builds the new populist counternarrative and supports the counterculture.
Any of us can be a neopopulist hero. Just ask Greg Wersal, Keith Kiefer or the Mdewakanton Indians and the other neopopulist clients I represent. It’s fun and it’s definitely not boring.
Here are 7 last neopopulist pastoral admonitions before I conclude.
- Separate your mind from the political and cultural experts
- Do not dialogue with the Modern Rationalist Tradition. It wants to kill America’s broad democratic and religious tradition
- Not “What is objective truth?,” “It’s who’s making the decision here?”
- Build neopopulist culture by manly asserting your neopopulist will on the bureaucrats
- Keep democratic hope alive
- Be irate
- Be tireless
Now, Samuel Adams will speak one last time from the grave:
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.
Now, from my view from the podium, I see many neopopulist brush fires in people’s minds – now, that represent in the words of President Bush the elder – a thousand points of light – a thousand points of light which I can believe in.