A PARABLE OF LIBERTY LOST AND FOUND — Part 7 of 10: Populism
A populist arises. Jason Zack Bull, known as “The Bull,” is famous for being famous. A rich businessman and showman with scant scruples and less wealth than he pretends, Bull senses the discontent of the masses and sees a career opportunity.Bull talks a lot about politics on mass media and social media. Like any savvy populist, he cynically spouts any conservative or liberal notion that makes him popular among the working class in his own majority racial group. In reality, he is neither conservative nor liberal. His goal is fame and power. His goal is serving himself, not serving the people.
Jason Bull believes that everybody owes him their loyalty and obedience. He does not care to earn loyalty from others through enduring hardships together with honor. He thinks people should be loyal to him because he’s born to rule. Insecurity drives his self-importance. His sense of safety relies on the loyalty of lackeys afraid of his power.
Bull uses his influence and country club connections to launch the nationalist and racist “Food and Prosperity” movement. He blames all the island’s woes on the “backward” nature nuts and “criminal” minority groups. He warns they would destroy modern society, which is “going to hell in a handbasket.”
Backed by his money, family, friends, and allies in all the districts, especially in one district, Jason Bull makes his move. The Bull runs for president in the conservative party. Conservatives now control both houses of congresses but not the presidency and not the courts.
The conservatives distrust Bull, but he manages to beat all rivals in primary elections to win the party’s presidential nomination. Want to win the election, conservatives ignore their principles and jump on the Bull bandwagon.
The liberal candidate is not much better. Although long mistrusted for corruption, he had survived allegations of ethical misconduct during decades of government service in prominent positions. Conservatives had demonized him to the point of hatred.
Despite wide distrust, the politician in the primary defeated the more progressive and more popular candidate to win the liberal party nomination. Progressives reluctantly get behind the liberal candidate, seeing him as better than Bull, the lesser of two evils.
Conservative elites tell themselves that if Jason Bull wins somehow, they will be the ones pulling the puppet strings, so what he says does not matter. When Bull promises to “drain the swamp” of government corruption, the elites smile at the empty promises in his campaign lies. Those who know island history chuckle at the allusion to Bull’s remote ancestor, Peter Zack, who drained a real swamp.
Bull openly promises to make all islanders powerful by becoming their voice. Working class islanders of all races feel justifiably angry at the many injustices they really do suffer in daily life. They can barely get by. Any hope for living the national dream of wealth looks impossible to them. They feel trapped. Rather than blame the system (or look within), they let The Bull redirect their rage at his opponent from the liberal party, and at all the scary minorities.
Bull mostly appeals to working people in his racial group — still the majority. They feel powerless to stop a rising tide of minority races reproducing on the island. Workers in the majority race fear losing their jobs to minorities, losing their homes, losing opportunities for their children, maybe losing their lives.
Bull panders to the fear and rage of working class voters in his racial group. His campaign slogan, “Make our country great again,” is code for making his own race great again, and for keeping them on top. Bull implicitly promises to repress the minorities. He promises redemption from a looming racial flood.
During the campaign itself, Bull acts like a bully with poor impulse control. He picks fights on social media with anyone bruising his thin-skinned vanity.
Bull accuses his liberal rival of all the faults he denies in himself. Lacking the knowledge, experience, temperament, or moral fitness to be president, Bull calls his rival unfit. Being a racist, he calls his rival a racist. Being corrupt, he calls his rival crooked. He calls his rival is mentally ill, an unstable megalomaniac. His rival would destroy the republic if given half a chance.
Bull wins crucial support from faithful religious people in his racial group who thirst for a savior. “The world is a scary place,” Bull proclaims, “so trust in me alone. I’m the only one here who understands you. Only I can save you.”
A tribal cult of personality forms around The Bull. True believers get dubbed “Bullites” and “Bullies.” Bull’s loyal fans worship him like a god or sports hero, as if his victories are their own victories. He can do no wrong in their eyes.
Loyalist do not care that Jason Z. Bull has no grasp of the basic constitutional principles governing the island for generations. He just sees himself running the government the same way as he runs his family business, where his rule is law. He sees himself being the big boss, a king. He sets his own rules, after all, always has, always will. He’s a maverick. That’s why his base loves him so.
Bullies love that Bull does what they fear doing on their own — look out only for themselves, ignore or push aside fools who get in their way, seek revenge, put down the bad guys and be a hero, so you feel good about yourself. Bullies would remake the world into proud reflections of who they think they are.
Bull loyalist celebrate finding a champion who lives “outside the box.” Those in the cult love to see him breaking taboos. When The Bull insults his foes, he rises a bit in popularity polls. When he utters racist slurs, he rises a bit in the polls. Bull claims that if he shot someone in the street, nobody would care. Seems maybe he really can get away with anything.
Critics mock and dismiss The Bull as a unhinged, confident he has no chance of winning. For conservatives, electing Bull is their best shot at seizing power.
Adoni Kodesh Rafi is unhappy in seeing the “happy working class” keeping the “old boys network” in charge of island life. She cannot stay silent and stay true to her soul.
Adoni writes about the election on social media, “Instead of us seeking heroes to worship or villains to blame, let’s find inside the inner peace to know what’s right and true for ourselves and our world. If we sense how we are connected, so what one does touches all, we treat each other better, like doing our homework and voting sensibly.
“I can see us becoming awake enough to govern ourselves wisely,” she writes. “What if I vote for those I know in my gut will give us all the best chance for improving life together? Democracy works when our minds and hearts and souls trust evidence and reason in making decisions. Democracy practiced honorably allows freedom and justice and abundance for all.”
Bull reacts. He says Rafi and her sort are “terrifying radical extremists” who cling to the old ways and hate technology. (His attack ignores their internet interactivity.) His mind cannot fathom this woman, but he somehow senses Rafi challenges his root power as a man among men. The Bull declares to all, “This witch is a threat to everything holy!”
Bull gets down and nasty at his mass rallies. He shouts that his election opponent, the nature nuts and minority radicals endanger all who would make the island great again. “One day, who knows, if we win over the crooks, what do you say? Should they all be rounded up and put away?”
His fans scream back a chant, “Lock them up! Lock them up!”
Bullies love to hate. They demand an enemy to hate. They need a way to deflect blame and shame. Pay no mind to the bully pointing the finger.
And so it goes.
< Previous | Next >
Excerpt from the expanded preamble for
MAKING GLOBAL SENSE
Grounded hope for the 21st century
inspired by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.
Please follow Judah Freed on Medium and like the book page on Facebook.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or places is entirely coincidental or is intended purely as an allegorical satire, parody or spoof of such person, event or place, and is not intended to communicate any true or factual information about that person, event or place.