Populism And The Right

There is division on the right that does not get enough attention……..from the right.

It seems to me that conservatives today fall into three general categories; Trump supporters, the “Never Trump” branch, and those that are neither.

The leftist media has made much of this since the start of the 2016 election season.  The right seems to just wish it would go away.  The right needs to do better.  By most accounts, conservatives are going to have a good 2022 election cycle.  However, if the right can not address these differences they won’t govern effectively and will subsequently lose those gains.

Two of those three categories (Never Trump and “neither”) are for the most part “traditional” conservatives along the line of Bill Buckley’s “fusionism” (social conservatives, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and anti-communists).  The pro-Trump faction embraces most of those traditional positions but mixes in a dose of populism.

Securing our borders has populist appeal.  Trade restrictions have a populist appeal.

On Rucksack Radio, the show that aired 5/1/2022, Tom makes the case that the recent clashes between parents and school boards are an example of a populist movement.  He notes that this was not initiated by the political leaders but by the people.  (The recorded show has not been published as of this writing, but here is a link to the Rucksack website.)  Keeping political indoctrination out of our children’s classrooms has a populist appeal.

I’ve written about National Conservatism here, here, and here.  While nationalism and populism are not synonymous, there is considerable overlap.  For the most part, conservatives that broke with Republicans over the 2016 election did so because some of these populist positions do not comport with traditional conservative principles.

A majority of conservatives would agree that securing our borders is a good idea.  Most would also agree that we can do without Marxist indoctrination in our schools.  Those are not the points of contention.

The points of contention are these (in part):

Trump did manage to get a tax cut through, but he made no effort to reduce the size of the government.  He didn’t even talk about reigning in the entitlement state.

Trade restrictions are contrary to the traditional conservative support for free markets.

Government meddling in the economy, such as Rubio’s industrial policy ideas, is counter to traditional conservative principles.

Perhaps we are arguing over the wrong things.  Perhaps there is room for these factions to compromise.  Perhaps there are some things more important than pure ideology.

You won’t find many conservatives that praise FDR.  However, consider that those hydro projects created an electrical grid that allowed for industrial production the output of which saved the free world in World War II.  They also provided irrigation water for millions of acres of farmland and secured a vast national food supply.  National security.

The interstate highway system improved commerce dramatically, but there is a reason that all overpasses lower than 16 feet must be marked.  National security.

Securing our southern border will reduce migrant labor from depressing U.S. wages, but it also preserves national sovereignty.  National security.

As I write this Russia is unable to build tanks, to replace those that have been lost, for lack of parts procured outside Russia.  The United States produces no antibiotics domestically (to name one of many such items).  Perhaps some of Rubio’s industrial policy ideas could be adapted and targeted.  Not “greater good” conservatism, but national security.  Should we consider trade restrictions where items vital to our security are involved?  I’m guessing the Russians now wish they had.

I confess I am a conservative in the rather traditional Goldwater/Buckley sense.  I bristle at the thought of compromising individual rights.  I dislike the notion of the government meddling in the economy because the government almost always gets it wrong.  In short, I’m very wary of some of these populist ideas and of “greater good” conservatism.

I am also a patriot very concerned about preserving our republic.  We need secure food supplies, we need secure medical supplies, we need secure sources for military hardware, and we need secure sources of energy.  We need these things for our national security.

It shouldn’t be a hard sell to convince all of the conservative factions that without our security and safety, none of the rest of our differences matter.  Get over the “mean tweets” and get over the purist ideology of global markets.  We can argue about those later.


Please check out my website Gadsden1.com.  Please check out “The Group” for RSS feeds to some of my favorite writers and podcasters.  Thank you for reading!


Leave a Reply