Saturday, March 5, 2016

On Populist-Conservative Tensions

I've spent a bit of time exploring the possibilities of an alliance between conservatives and populists (the "popucon" synthesis).  However, in the interests of fairness, I thought it worthwhile to survey in The Weekly Standard the possible tensions between conservatism and some iterations of populism:
Conservatism and populism align when they take on a decadent elite. The current populist insurgency has been fueled by years of broken promises, economic stagnation, and identity politics. Conservatives and populists can agree that there needs to be a shake-up of the powerful. However, conservatives must break with populists when populists call not for a thoughtful decentralization of power or a more virtuous elite but instead cry out for an authoritarian white knight, who will deliver the body politic from the messy compromises of civic life. Some of the problems faced by our republic do stem from governing incompetence, but competence alone will not solve the challenges ahead of us. Moreover, calls to set up a strongman utterly vitiate the populist cry to return power to the people.

One of the greatest indictments against our current elite is that it has weaponized identity politics. The culture war against free thought, artistic expression, and intellectual diversity has, alas, all too often been led by many of those who occupy the commanding heights of our culture. Populists are right to attack the tyranny of Marcusian identity politics, and conservatives have every incentive to join them in that battle against cultural alienation. However, populists betray this critique of identity politics when they themselves succumb to tribalism. Bigotry is but one of the weapons used by collectivists to oppress the individual, and conservatives who seek to defend personal liberty and dignity should attack all such displays of malignant tribalism.
Read the rest here.

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