Friday, March 31, 2017

Tough Choices

In her latest Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan reflects on the challenges currently facing the Trump administration and lays out an interesting scenario:
2008 and the years just after (the crash and the weak recovery)...changed everything in America, and...the country [is] going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths—a moderate populism or socialism—and...the former [is] vastly to be preferred, for reasons of the nation’s health. A gifted politician could make his party the leader toward that path, which includes being supportive and encouraging of business but willing to harness government to alleviate the distress of the abandoned working class and the anxious middle class; strong on defense but neither aggressive nor dreamy in world affairs; realistic and nonradical on social issues while unmistakably committed to protecting the freedoms of the greatest cohering force in America, its churches; and aware that our nation’s immigration reality was a scandal created by both parties, and must be redressed.
I'm not sure that "moderate populism" or socialism are the only two choices on the political menu in the years ahead.  But it does seem that, if you want to check the risk of a shift toward more radically socialistic policies, you have good reason to address some of the forces driving the populist insurgency.  Strained social networks, economic decline, identity politics, etc.--all these challenge the future of limited government in the United States.

Furthermore, due to the nature of the two-party system, there is a very real risk that the failure of a populist-conservative alliance will not lead to the return of Conservatism (TM), newly purified.  Instead, it could empower an aggressive and aggrieved "progressivism."

Many of the policy points that Noonan suggests for this "moderate populism" could indeed by part of a potentially successful governing vision.  We'll have to see if the GOP will try to implement it.

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