In his latest book, Posner (Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society, 2018) takes readers through a fascinating political history focused on the men (yes, no women so far) who best illustrate the manipulative power of the populist demagogue. A demagogue exploits, for self-aggrandizement, the emotions of the masses against perceived elites and undermines trust in the political and civic institutions of their eras. Posner draws many striking parallels between Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson, along with William Bryan Jennings, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long, George Wallace, Charles Coughlin, and Richard Nixon. Many of the post-Civil War populists used nativism to unify whites against immigrants as well as religious and ethnic minorities in growing urban centers, all of them frequent targets of Donald Trump’s rhetoric. By reading Posner’s survey, readers will see more clearly and starkly the historical context of Trump’s rise to political power and how he appeals and holds on to his base.
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