Tucker Carlson, Third Positionism, and the Albatross of Fascism

Tucker Carlson is rethinking what it means to be conservative

If you’ve been paying attention to prime time cable news, which I would not blame you if you haven’t, you’d notice Tucker Carlson dominates the evening. Perhaps many of you still think of a young Carlson with a squirrely bowtie on CNN debating James Carville. However, the Tucker Carlson that broadcasts weeknightly these days is nothing like that young geeky kid. Carlson is a firebrand now. He has been quietly advocating for what seems to amount to American Third Positionism. This is edgy territory for a prime time cable news host. Third Positionism, which is a mixture of populist social conservativism and nationalist economic policies, has long been used by hardcore ethnic fascist parties throughout history. Carlson recognizes this and is careful about the way in which he approaches the topic. Third Positionism does not have to include racism and xenophobia. But it so often slides into it. With all the chatter of Carlson entering the political arena, he must navigate the waters of populism and the Third Position carefully. Lest he give his political opponets all the ammunition they would ever need to bury him in an election.

The Third Position is a political movement born out of the turmoil of 20th century Europe. It was presented as a middle ground between Western bloc capitalism and democracy and Eastern bloc communism and authoritarianism. It both borrows from both while being highly critical of both. Tucker has been walking this line for some time now. He bashed socialism for what it is, a disaster that leds to starvation and death, but he also rightly points out that unregulated market forces almost always crush the native population of a country. The problem arises when populist ideas surrounding race and culture enter the discussion. Too many times, especially in Europe where Third Positionism started, this ideology devolves into racism and ethnic fascism. It believes a certain group of people must be mandated by the state to be separated based on their skin color. This idea simply does not work in a country like America, which is too young to have a true ethnic character. Tucker masterfully counters this by constantly bringing up culture over race. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin, to think so is abhorrent and unAmerican. Instead it has to do with the content of your character, imbued in you by your culture since birth. Tucker is smart to make this distinction as Third Positionism needs to rid itself of the albatross of ethnic fascism if it wants to gain any traction in America.

Carlson believes the American values of liberty and freedom to be paramount. However, he is not afraid to put his foot down when liberty and freedom trample on the American people. He is vocal against large corporations exploiting American workers, Big Tech censoring Americans, and Big Pharma getting Americans addicted to life crushing opiates or when trendsetters and influencers push drug legalization because, hey, freedom! Notice the theme here? Tucker Carlson cares about Americans. Full stop. He is not partisan about it either. In a recent episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson gave a nod to Elizabeth Warren for her nationalist economic policies that put American workers first. And at the same time he has rallied against giant libertarian Republican funders like the Koch Brothers for infecting the party with market fundamentalism that crushes the ordinary person. He has said multiple times he supports politicians and policies that put Americans first, no matter what.

Tucker Carlson deeply cares about America and her values and culture. Being a part of the cultural elite he sees the rot affecting our nation and seems determined to eradicate it. He speaks emphatically about these problems being “poison, injected into the veins of our nation.” Powerful imagery. But so very true. Tucker is trying to wake us up. He is trying to tell us to stop being partisan, both sides have great ideas, and its unfortunate that one side or the other has to come as a package deal with the undesirables. Want social conservativism and classical liberalism? Sorry that comes with unregulated markets that crush common folk. Want economic policies that don’t ship your jobs overseas, or regulation against predatory economic practices? Sorry that comes with ghoulish excitement over abortion and political correctness. Why is there no middle ground? Now there is. His name is Tucker Carlson.

Andrew Yang: The Case for a Populist Democrat

Andrew Yang in Detroit Photo Credit Asa Mathat 2015

Those of you who are familiar with me might be surprised to find out I highly respect and agree with a major policy platform of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Before I begin I would like to put out a disclaimer, this is in no way an endorsement of Yang for the 2020 presidential election. It is just an acknowledgement of Democrats who are in line with populist ideals. If you notice I did say Democrats, in the plural. This is because there are a few other populist Democrats, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard. However, Andrew Yang, in my opinion, is much more of a true populist than any of these candidates and will be the focus of this blog. Andrew Yang is the only 2020 candidate on any side talking about the upcoming massive job displacement due to automation. This is an inherently populist problem as it deals mostly with blue collar working class individuals. Common folk in common jobs like truck driving or factory line work.

This blog post will focus specifically on truck drivers and the truck driving industry. This is an industry that is extremely threatened by the upcoming automation boom. With new advancements in the field of self-driving vehicles and delivery automation, trucking faces a massive job displacement in the near future. According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry in the United States employs 8.7 million Americans, 3.5 million of those employees are truck drivers. Truck driving is the number one job in 29 states, a lot of them key states for conservatives, blue dog democrats, and many are necessary for Donald Trump to win reelection in 2020. No matter how well the economy is doing, when between 3.5-8.7 million individuals experience job displacement, they experience dissatisfaction with those in power. It is for this reason that Andrew Yang, now flying under most Democrats’ radar, actually poses the biggest challenge to Donald Trump. Not ol’ Sleepy Joe, certainly not Pocahontas Warren, Cory Spartacus Booker, or Time Traveling Kamala Harris. Andrew Yang himself summed in up rather well:

The reason Donald Trump was elected was that we automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If you look at the voter data, it shows that the higher the level of concentration of manufacturing robots in a district, the more that district voted for Trump.

Andrew Yang

This makes it seem obvious. Stimulus and response. These Americans were butted out of their jobs by profit seeking corporations and Donald Trump spoke directly to them. Another automation boom is looming and Trump has yet to speak directly to these voters yet. Granted the 2020 campaign season is still extremely young. Trump, as of the time I am writing this blog, has yet to officially kick-off his campaign, although he plans on it tonight. Trump must address this issue at some point in his campaign, or else a Democrat like Andrew Yang will come along with an enticing solution.

Yang’s answer to this problem of the automation of the American workforce is fairly simple but one that is grasped from the obscure annals of fringe American policy ideas. He proposes what is called a Universal Basic Income, or a UBI for short. He calls it a “Freedom Dividend” and it will be available to most tax paying American citizens. Andrew Yang is not alone in his proposing a UBI for the American people; it may surprise many readers to know that famed libertarian thinker Milton Friedman supported the idea of a UBI. I know what you are thinking, I felt the same way. The concept of a UBI smacks of redistribution, socialism, and the idea that everyone gets a guaranteed $1000 conjures up nightmares of rampant inflation. However, I trust Milton Friedman, and looked more into how such a concept could be favored by a libertarian scholar.

Friedman’s idea of a UBI is slightly different than Yang’s but similar in spirit. In Friedman’s example its aim is to entirely replace the current welfare system, but in Yang’s it will replace most forms of welfare but supplement the others instead of entirely replacing the old system. Believe it or not, this would actually result in a cheaper social welfare program. It would reduce the amount of bureaucracy as well as the amount of benefits handed out per recipient on average. It is because of this that thinkers such as Milton Friedman can get behind the idea of a UBI, reduced federal spending. What about inflation? Wouldn’t the suddenly influx of every single American getting $1000 a month causes prices to rise with run away inflation? This is a misunderstanding, because Yang’s proposal takes the UBI cash from money that already exists in the money pool. This is different from the concept of Quantitative Easing, which prints new money and then adds it to the money pool, diluting its worth, and certainly causing inflation. However, these are Andrew Yang campaign talking points and should be taken with a grain of salt. The endorsement of a UBI by Friedman is enough to turn your head, however.

Yang’s other platform position that has the potential to be populist is taxing Big Tech companies like Amazon who reap the benefits of being American companies while routinely paying little to nothing in taxes. He plans to achieve this with a VAT tax on these companies. It remains to be seen if Amazon will simply jack up prices of their own goods, or if the Freedom Dividend can keep up with those price increases. If so then it could be another win for populism, taking Big Tech down a few pegs and making them pay their fair share. However, it could also turn into a regressive tax if the Freedom Dividend is not enough to outpace the price increases that may occur from a VAT tax.

For this reason this blog post is not a wholesale endorsement of Andrew Yang or his presidential campaign. It is merely a recognition of the fact that populism is not exclusively right wing. The great conservative populist hero Tucker Carlson recently said he longs for a candidate that is economically nationalist while still maintaining social conservatism. Carlson also spoke at length to Andrew Yang in an interview that covered UBI, medicare for all, and other seemingly unconservative positions. Some may say Carlson is treading dangerously close to Third Positionism. The ramifications of embracing the Third Position are controversial. However, that may be a subject for another blog post. For now, Andrew Yang looks like the most populist blue dog Democrat we have. This signals a willingness for Democrats to listen to the common person again. Something we have not seen for decades. This is a good thing, do not get stuck in tribalism and blindly vote for whoever has or does not have the R or D next to their names. Pay close attention. Perhaps our shared goals are closer than we have been led to believe.

Why Populism?: The Future of Politics in the Age of Trump

Trump's clarion call against the global elite.
We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.

Populism is a contentious term; fraught with misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The term is applied both endearingly by the people and pejoratively by the media elites. The dictionary defines populism as “a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people.” This definition is apt, however, it is rather broad. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines populism as “a political program or movement that champions the common person, usually by favorable contrast with an elite,” and states that it “usually combines elements of the left and the right, opposing large business and financial interests but also frequently being hostile to established socialist and labor parties.” This definition of populism more accurately fits the concept of what we think of when we hear the term populist in today’s politics.

When one hears the word “populist” a few key figures come to mind. The most prominent example of a populist in most peoples’ minds is the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump. Across the pond, and sympathetic to Trumpian politics is Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom. On the left-wing side of political spectrum we have politicians such as Bernie Sanders whose campaign appeals to blue collar working class voters in America’s heartland. There is also a growing handful of populist politicians in the European Union who are strongly Euroskeptic and interested in leaving or dissolving the Union. These politicians are from many different ideologies; however, they are united by one thing, which is rallying the common people against the elites. Herein lies the core concept of populism, and why it is so appealing to people today. The current political landscape is no longer ultimately left versus right, although there is certainly room for debate there, but it is now global elites versus the common person.

The mainstreaming of populism in modern political discourse can be traced to a single speech from the 2016 United States presidential election. A moment in which Donald Trump bridged the gap between the working class liberals and working class conservatives. Trump would not have won if he did not sway those who voted for Obama, some of them twice over. He had to reach to these voters in heartland American states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and most shockingly Pennsylvania. He did this with a rousing speech, a clarion call against the global elites. On April 27th, 2016 from Washington D.C., Candidate Trump laid out his foreign policy proposals. In this speech he clearly and concisely laid out a populist foreign policy of nonintervention, immigration reform, and renewed trade relations. The moment of clarity came when Trump spoke out plainly against globalism saying:

We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony.

The implications of this sound bite rippled through out the world. Media elites from different countries pounced. They used it to call Donald Trump a “Know-Nothing” who appealed to the lowest common denominator and the alleged uneducated working class. They sneered in contempt at the idea of upholding nation-states. They found it reprehensible that someone would reject the concept of globalism. Globalism is another term that is thrown around the same way that populism is. Rife with misunderstanding and misrepresentations. Who would disagree that we are part of a global world? That trade and free movement of people is a bad thing? It seems like a no-brainer. However, the term globalism is a misnomer. It is not a movement that benefits the common people of the world. It is a function that only serves the elites. It’s the lopsided trade agreements that see American goods being replaced by ersatz Chinese knock-offs. It’s the structured economies of the European Union that redistribute commodities not based on market need but by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. It’s the unfettered flow of migrants into our homelands, destroying our culture and heritage and only benefiting elite multinational corporations who gain new sources of cheap labor. It’s Big Tech companies that want to sterilize our speech to be more advertiser friendly at the expense of freedom of expression. This is the true face of globalism. This is what the populists revolt against.

The future looks populist from anywhere you stand. With current approval ratings hovering at 50% Donald Trump seems poised to snatch reelection. It is truly his to lose. The recent elections in the European Union saw an increase in populist parties holding seats in European Parliament. The internet, ironically, is connecting the globe and uniting us against globalism. Left-wing politics have a hard time gaining a foothold in the memetic annals of the internet’s most far flung corners. The left can’t meme, is the popular saying of the populist right. The truth is people want to be a part of a nation-state. They want to have a shared culture and heritage. They want politicians and leaders who will stand up fiercely for their interests and put their own countries first. This is why Brexit happened, this is why Trump was elected, this is why the European Union is facing increased scrutiny from its own members.

Populism seems to be here to stay. It is not without its pitfalls, however. We must address the fact that populism has been used in the past to trick the common person into supporting policies that benefit the elite. We must also be wary of the fact that populism has been used to justify heinous acts of authoritarian tyranny. As with all things, populism is neither inherently good nor bad but it is implementation that can be good or bad. It has the potential to create a world in which all nations can live in harmony while still maintaining their national identity. Nationalism and brutish thuggery do not have to go hand-in-hand. The trick is in striking just the right balance.