Tucker Carlson's economic populism scam - 2020-07-22
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, we are told, is among the foremost avatars of right-wing economic populism. His fiery rants defending the working class against wealthy "elites" have led him to be described, with varying degrees of credulity, as "The Bow-Tied Bard of Populism" (The Atlantic), "The Populist Paladin of Primetime" (The American Conservative), and "The Preppy Populist" (Jacobin). It's an ill-fitting mantle for Carlson, the millionaire son of a U.S. ambassador and scion of the Swanson frozen-food empire who draws his paychecks from the billionaire Murdochs. But it's one that he's aggressively claimed, helping the Fox star to stand out from the right-wing media throng and even winning him praise from some on the political left.
It's also a hollow sham. Carlson's schtick is based on one weird trick: He typically ignores the context of the actual U.S. economic policy debate, instead rooting his "populist" rhetoric in culture war narratives. Those he disagrees with -- largely on the left but occasionally on the right -- are the despicable "elites," from whom Republicans are the only ones who can "save us," as he put it last month. Tuesday night's broadcast shows how this works: Carlson and his guest portrayed Democrats as the party of rich people who hate working-class Americans -- without mentioning how President Donald Trump's administration or Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden's agenda impact either group.
Carlson pivoted off a report that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had made $13 billion in a single day to accuse the left of being unconcerned with income inequality (the segment has garnered media attention because it led directly into Carlson's hand-off to Sean Hannity, who seemed to defend Bezos on-air, then subsequently apologized on Twitter).