Discover more from ConservaTibbs
You cannot understand populism without understanding its context
When conservatives "punch right" at populist efforts to increase government power while surrendering to big-government schemes from Democrats, populists notice and see a "uniparty."
What have conservatives actually conserved? That is the question I see from populists all the time, and that is the question conservatives must answer if they are to re-assert control of the Republican Party. No political movement exists in a vacuum. The rise of populism in the Republican Party cannot be separated from the increasing leftward tilt of the Democratic Party, and the failure of conservatives to stand up to it.
The rising tide of populism is in large part a reaction to both Democratic policies and Leftist activism on social issues from big corporations. The Obama years produced resentment as Democrats leaned into identity politics, and policy-based objections were described as "racist" or "bigoted" in some way. While libertarian-leaning conservatives are reluctant to criticize large corporations, repeating free-market mantras do nothing to ease the concerns of people who see the economic elite pushing down "woke" polices, critical race theory and sexual anarchy.
The Republican establishment that bemoans the populist Right's support for using government power in service of "conservative" goals has done a very poor job of actually limiting government - especially when a Republican is President. George W. Bush gave us a brand new federal entitlement program. Mike Pence, who warned against populism in a speech on September 6, served as Vice President during an administration that had no fiscal discipline and drove up both spending and the deficit.
Despite waves of enthusiasm for limiting government from Republicans, the government has only gotten bigger, more powerful and more expensive for 50 years. There was a short burst of effort to limit government in 1995 and 2011 after the anti-Clinton wave election of 1994 and the Tea Party wave of 2010, but that was short lived as Republicans grew weary of the fight. Why would Right-wing populists trust Republican rhetoric about limited government after thirty years of failure to actually limit anything?
The populists do have a legitimate concern about foreign policy. While there is value in expanding democracy, Americans of all ideological stripes are weary of "forever wars." We have troops stationed all over the world, and Presidents of both parties regularly use military force without Congressional approval where there is no direct threat to American national security. Limited government does not just mean restrained spending at home, but limited military adventurism around the world. Failing to recognize these legitimate concerns causes populists to lose faith in conservatives.
If conservatives want to take back the party from populists, they need to do two things: First, they need to get serious about actually limiting government. When conservatives "punch right" at populist efforts to increase government power while surrendering to big-government schemes from Democrats, populists notice and see a "uniparty."
Second, the concerns of populists about both government and big business pushing "woke" ideology must be acknowledged. One way to deal with corporations is to eliminate any and all incentives to implement DEI initiatives, critical race theory and sexual liberalism. Push corporations to be focused on providing products, not ideology.
Once that is done, the best answer to populism is a warning that the power you give government to implement your agenda can and likely will be used against you to implement an agenda contrary to your interests. What we need is a federal government too small and limited to implement the agenda of the Left, leaving policy-making authority to the sovereign states. For those who live in "red states," that would leave them to their own devices. But none of that will work unless we have Republican elected officials actually committed to limited government.
Thanks for reading ConservaTibbs! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.