No “if” about it. Demagogues work at appealing not to the “silent” majority, but to the noisy minority.
I started thinking about this while reading a wise opinion piece in today’s Times, “From the ‘Silent Majority’ to the Unvaxxed Minority,” by European political scientist Ivan Krastev. (He has published a short book about our 21st century plague, with the terrific, darkly comedic title, Is it Tomorrow Yet?, which further convinces me to pay attention to him.)
In the piece Krastev uses the terms “populist” and “populism” to describe autocrats and wanna-be’s. In doing so, he makes it clear that there’s nothing “populist” about their appeal, which — as we Americans all know — is directed to an ugly, very loud minority.
So that got me thinking. If we shouldn’t be calling Trump, say, a “populist,” what should we call him?
How about populite? Like cellulite, except not.
Years ago, in a conversation with a friend who remained a Trotskyist throughout his life, I guess I must have used the term “Trotskyite,” which is what a lot of people called them.
My friend tersely corrected me. “It’s ‘Trotskyist‘ if you’re one of them, ‘Trotskyite‘ if you’re not.”
Ah-ha. So “ist” was a designation, “ite” was a sneer.
Try it: Populite. It makes sense, for all sorts of reasons.