‘Useful Idiots’: Thomas Frank on Fake Populism and Silicon Valley Fantasies

Reed Dunlea and Daniel Halperin
·2 min read

In the latest socially distanced episode of our Useful Idiots podcast, hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper are joined by friend-of-the-show journalist and historian Thomas Frank.

For this week’s Democrats Suck, Katie takes issue with Democrats “punching left,” citing a leaked conference call among House Democrats where some Dems reportedly blamed the poor results in Congressional elections on leftist policy agendas.

For Republicans Suck, Matt and Katie pontificate on the scope of the “Million MAGA March,” a pro-Trump rally planned for this weekend in Washington, D.C., without a permit.

“Their libertarianism is compatible with their anti-permitism,” quips Katie.

Thomas Frank rejoins the show to discuss the past, present, and future of the Democratic party.

The three discuss a shift in the demographics for both Republicans and Democrats, and how the left seems to be emerging as the “wealthy” party. They also debate whether a Biden-led party will shift agendas from the priorities of previous administrations.

“Their complacency, it just bulls you over. They really don’t think they have to serve any of their constituencies,” says Frank. “This has been a year for icon smashing, and the tearing down of statues. The Democrats could use a dose of that.”

Frank also continues his proposal that the term “populism” is widely misused in current discourse, and that the Trump version is a misrepresentation of the idea.

“It’s like the ‘Pizzagate’ of the intellectual elite. It’s like this myth that they’ve invented that they all believe,” says Frank. “Populism was not this racist demagoguery. That’s something else.”

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