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Populism as an American dynamic
La Voz Staff Photo

By David Conde

Because of being a relative late-comer to the Chicano Movement, I was able to see and read about a people tired of tyranny. The feeling came from the notion that Latinos as a “forgotten people,” had no political space and little sense of nationality.

Latinos were not seen as Americans even though they were born in this land and what they carried among the trappings of a conquered people did not include an identity. The civil rights movements beginning in the second-half of the 20th Century and first led by returning World War II veterans sought to make space for ordinary Latino self-realization and the American Dream.

The explosion of social, economic and political aspirations created a “populist” movement for change that still goes on. Populism is defined as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.”

Revolutions come about when an overwhelming majority feels this way and there is no other avenue for change. This characterized the famous and consequential French Revolution of 1789, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Cuban Revolution of 1953.

Currently, Populism is having its way around the world. It has made Great Britain decide to divorce from the European Union. It created the Hugo Chavez phenomenon in Venezuela, the election of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico and President Trump in the United States among others.

Hugo Chavez followed by Nicolas Maduro managed to make a mess of Venezuela. The jury is still out on Lopez Obrador.

Donald Trump, the President of the United States, represents a curious case of a base that got him elected by a vote of the Electoral College. It is the story of a dwindling majority of people seeking to stay in power.

They generally do not believe in the multicultural society that is coming forth to become the new face of America. In a sense, they want to turn the clock back to a time when they were the only ones occupying first-class citizenship.

The notion of citizenship has become one of the major preoccupations of their politics. The first to bear the brunt of that concern is the Latino immigrant community because it is the most vulnerable and it does not look like them.

So when Trump rails against immigrants and goes on his typical racist rants, they applaud and celebrate. It confirms to the community of extremist that there is still hope for a White controlled America.

One of the major contributions made by immigrants to the general community is to return a sense of place and identity to other Latinos. This, in turn, has made for more effective American citizenship.

This citizenship is being used to create a more even playing-field for a community that is surging in prominence. It political voice and increasing power at the ballot box are outward signs of that prominence.

The fact remains that there is a part of America that feels threatened by a country that appears to be is turning away from its founding world view. Although that is not the case, many people feel alienated from what they were.

Populism is a ready answer for a people feeling the ills of history. The changing of the guard that is currently occurring only serves to exacerbate the obvious.

Having said that, it is also true that Populism has been with us throughout our history. We just did not pay much attention til now.





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