It might be tempting to say that Left populists simply need a “hero”; the Left, unlike the Right, has lacked larger-than-life figures for decades. But what they need more than that is to imagine themselves winning—in the sense of successfully defining a political “we”—and construct a platform accordingly. The challenge for left-wing populists lies in developing a coherent ideology that embraces the “economics of meaning” without reverting to a failed orthodoxy. In recent decades, the strategy of the technocratic Left has been to separate economics from meaning and to divorce policy from politics. But this strategy increasingly yields diminishing returns, since debates over economics are always about more than simply improving material outcomes. It is also disingenuous: the technocratic consensus never transcended the fundamental, agonistic realities of politics; it simply refused to acknowledge them.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org