May 20, 2024

There is a linguistic term known as the “drift of the signified,” in which a word or symbol remains unchanged, but the meaning of the word or the thing being represented by the symbol changes over time. For example, the word “gay” used to apply to anyone happy and carefree, whereas now it means something else entirely; another example would be the red flag of the Soviet Union, which began as a symbol of anarchic revolt but ended up as a symbol of mindless conformity. 

Lately, the political left has been trying to shift the term “populism” to be a synonym for, among other things, “racism” and “xenophobia.” That was just one of the fallacies that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi trotted out during an Oxford Union debate last month in the U.K. where she received a well-deserved drubbing from opponent Winston Marshal. That was far from her only malapropism.

Pelosi — a self-described “devout” Catholic — said during the April 25 debate that certain Americans, whom she considered to be “poor souls who are looking for some answers,” refuse to accept the answers Democrats give them on particular topics due to their beliefs about “guns, gays, [and] God.”

Challenging Pelosi’s position in the debate about populism, Winston Marshall, a musician who was once a part of Mumford and Sons and now hosts the “Marshall Matters” podcast for The Spectator, spoke in opposition to the Oxford Union motion that “This House Believes Populism is a Threat to Democracy.” 

Did you get that? Queen Nancy thinks, as many elitists do, that ordinary Americans can’t recognize how awesome progressive Democrats are, because they are blinded by guns, gays, and God. Really? Did she learn nothing from Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I, Dowager-Empress of Chappaqua, and her “basket of deplorables” comment?

See Related: Nancy Pelosi Flips Her Lid When MSNBC Host Points Out Inconvenient Truth About Biden’s Economy 

Pelosi Defends Schumer in Incredible Anti-Netanyahu Rant as Dana Bash Presses Bibi on Elections

But that was a self-own. The real slam came from Winston Marshal’s excoriation of leftist elites’ misuse of the term “populist.” And guess who he blames for that language drift?

“‘Populism’ has become a word used synonymously with ‘racist.’ We’ve heard ‘ethno-nationalist,’ we have ‘bigot,’ we have ‘hillbilly,’ ‘redneck,’ we have ‘deplorable,’” Marshall said. Pelosi had argued in her remarks that contemporary American populism currently had an ethno-nationalist character. 

“Elites use it to show their contempt for ordinary people,” Marshall said.

Marshall argued that the change in meaning of the word “populist” is “a recent change,” and pointed to a 2016 speech delivered by then-President Barack Obama, who he said “took umbrage with the notion that Trump be called a populist.”

“If anything, Obama argued that he was the populist. If anything, Obama argued that Bernie was the populist,” he said. “Something curious happens. If you watch Obama’s speeches after that point, more and more recently, he uses the word ‘populist’ interchangeably with ‘strong man,’ ‘authoritarian.’ The word changes meaning. It becomes a negative, a pejorative, a slur.”

And Marshall also slammed Queen Nancy on the Summer of Love, over her unhinged objections.

Highlighting the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, which he believed to be “a dark day for America, indeed,” Marshall said: “I’m sure Congresswoman Pelosi will agree that the entire month of June 2020, when the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, was under siege and under insurrection by radical progressives, those, too, were dark days for America.”

At that point, Pelosi raised her hand and said: “There is no equivalence there. . . .  It is not like what happened on January 6th, which was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.”

“My point, though, is that all political movements are susceptible to violence and, indeed, insurrection,” Marshall said. “Populism is not a threat to democracy. Populism is democracy. And why else have universal suffrage if not to keep elites in check?”

There’s a lot to unpack there, aside from the fact that Nancy Pelosi is delusional. 

First: The January 6th event was not an insurrection; it was, at most, hooliganism. Second, President Trump did not incite the incident, which was not a rebellion, either; he admonished his supporters to peacefully make their voices heard. Add to that the fact that, if this was an insurrection, it was the most un-insurrection-y insurrection that ever insurrectioned; nobody brought guns, people strolled through the Capitol escorted by Capitol Police, and the only fatality was an unarmed Air Force veteran shot by a panicked cop.

The Summer of Love riots, though? Billions in property damage, small businesses destroyed, and at least one blatant political assassination. In that sense, Queen Nancy is correct – there is no comparison.

But Marshall’s most important point was that populism, as properly defined, is not a threat. Not to democracy nor to a republic, which is what the United States actually is. He went on to praise some level of “elites,” pointing to Joe Biden’s ongoing physical and mental decline as evidence:

“Now, don’t get me wrong, we need elites. If President Biden has shown us anything, we need someone to run the countries,” he said. “When the president has severe dementia, it’s not just America that crumbles, the whole world burns.”

Severe dementia – one can scarcely deny it. 

As far as Marshall’s claim that “we need elites,” I will argue his choice of words. What Joe Biden’s deterioration and his administration’s incompetence have shown us, more than anything else, is not that we need elites, but that we need competence. Not elitism – and Queen Nancy repeatedly proves to be an arrogant elitist of the very worst kind – but simple competence. America, if we are indeed crumbling – and for the last three years we sure seem to have been headed in that direction – then it is due to a crisis of competence, in the federal government, in the Biden administration’s officials and staff, in Congress, and many non- and quasi-government roles such as academia.

The reality is and has been for some time now that, with a few rare exceptions, public service no longer attracts the best and the brightest. In fact, in some cases, the opposite seems to ring true. Indeed, Nancy Pelosi herself serves as evidence of this.

It’s not “guns, gays, and God” that makes Americans oppose the progressive agenda. It’s the utter fecklessness and incompetence of the politicians who push that agenda – including befuddled, arrogant Queen Nancy Pelosi.

Watch Winston Marshal speaking in opposition; it’s worth some consideration.