24 Jan 2016

Trump ‘s Populism

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Rod Dreher notes that National Review may be substantively correct about Trump, but elite conservative writers, a lot like the liberals, are also thoroughly disconnected from the concerns and views of normal working class voters out there in the hinterlands. Trump, in openly and passionately taking on the Establishment, has tapped into a powerful reservoir of political support, and is rejecting the whole elite Establishment intelligentsia, on the Right as well as on the Left.

When I worked at National Review in 2002, I took pride at being part of the team of conservative standard-bearers, and believed that we were articulating what American conservatives felt. This continued after I left NR, but kept up my work as a conservative opinion journalist.

But a funny thing kept happening. When I would go back to south Louisiana to visit my family, I often got into (friendly) arguments with people about conservative principles and policies. I noticed that we were at loggerheads over many things. It frustrated me to no end that reason was useless; “ideologically unmoored cultural passions” weren’t just something, they were the only thing. This was a tribal conservatism, one that had very little to do with ideas, and everything to do with nationalism and a sense of us-versus-them. To be a conservative is to agree with Us; to disagree with us means you must be a liberal.

I remember getting into it with my dad once after I moved home. I was driving him to the VA clinic for a check-up. This was during the Obamacare debate, and he started complaining about welfare spongers who expected the government to pay for their medical care. I pointed out that he was an avid user of Medicare and of veterans’ medical benefits, and that if not for those government programs, he would have died a long time ago.

“That’s different,” he said.

“How?” I asked.

He just got mad, and changed the subject.

This kind of thing happened more than a few times. Moving back to Louisiana to live really did reveal to me the gap between the conservative punditocracy and those for whom they — for whom we — presume to speak. Ideas and reason matter far less to most people than they do to people like us (this is true of the left as well), not because most people are stupid, but because their mode of experiencing life is not nearly as abstract as ours. …

[C]onservative theoreticians (like me) get so caught up in our ideas that we fail to see some important things, even as many of us tell ourselves, as we have for a generation now, that we are the spokesmen for “real” America.

It’s a narrative that is irresistible to intellectuals. The Left, of course, always loves to think of itself on the side of the People, never mind what actual people think. Trouble is, the Right is the same way.

I’d say that we’d better beat Trump in the primaries, because Populist Nationalism is never going to lead to conservative results or good government. What Trump in power and unbridled would turn into is another Juan Peron, another Huey Long, cozying up to the masses with Nativism, Protectionism, and an inevitable package of socialist goodies, with a large helping of crony capitalism and corruption on the side.

4 Feedbacks on "Trump ‘s Populism"


Trump would do about as well as William Jennings Bryan, the last rabid populist to run for President. While I can understand the fervor, I cannot understand the willingness to lose the White House.

I remember once in high school viciously mocking one of my teachers. It felt good. It did not, however, help me achieve any of my goals.


I am 72 and a retired veteran. I paid for medicare for 47 years. Do you understand that??? It wasn’t ‘free’ and I wasn’t freeloading. I worked the government took my money and I PAID for it. How many people on welfare have even ever worked and actually paid taxes for their free stuff?? I served in the Air Force from 1964 to 1984 and congress told us that our pay was low BUT that’s because there was an ‘impuned 6% put aside for our retirement and benefits after we retire. I started in 1964 earning $86 a month. I made twice that much before I enlisted from my part time second job. I worked part time second jobs for my entire first four years in the Air Force. And congress didn’t want to raise the pay because we were also earning our retirement and benefits. So do not for a second think that VA ‘care’ (such as it is) is free; we paid our way and many paid in blood. For any politican or political hack to conflate either medicare or VA care with ‘free stuff’ should make them permanently ineligible to run for office or speak in public. The GOP is SOOOO out of touch with Americans. So sad…

Lazarus Long

I second GWTW’s comment. We were forced to “buy” Medicare. And we are stuck with using it. My .mil retirement pay and the Tricare are not Gov’t gifts. They are part of my employment contract.

The EBT, Section 8 Housing, etc. have not such contractual obligations underlying them. It is just vote buying.

sound awake

right now we have a welfare state and open borders

you cant have both and expect to survive as a nation

whether he will shrink continue or expand the welfare state remains to be seen and could go either way

but he will do something about the border

thats better than any other candidate will do


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