Conservatism Is Populism

Max Sawicky seems to have developed a penchant for placing his foot firmly into his mouth is now claiming that conservatives can never be populists. This traditional smear against conservative ideology is one that is often seen among members of the left.

The fact is, liberalism is increasingly the ideology of the fringes of American society. (At least the style of big-government liberalism that has become the rallying cry of the Democratic Party.) The super-rich, the ones who are supposed to be the core of the Republican Party, voted for Gore over Bush by large margins. The most public spokespeople for the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party are all multi-millionaire celebrities.

The majority of Republicans that I have met in years of working in Republican Party politics are not rich. In fact, most of them are firmly in the middle class. Most of them are largely self-made.

The problem with government activism is that it never works. A system that is predicated on the concept of redistribution of wealth either fails or becomes tyrannical. As even Mr. Sawicky admits:

Government is of course a thorny issue. The old-tyme populists, circa 1885, saw the public sector as potentially representing the will of the whole people. But representation costs money; taxes must be levied. Truth be told, there is not enough income among the ‘rich’ to finance government. Ordinary folks will have to chip in.

Exactly. That’s why when the cries of ‘soak the rich’ start, people who are only moderately well-off get burned. The small-business owner doesn’t have the time or the money to shelter his or her assets from the government, while the Barbara Streisands and the Martin Sheens most certainly do. The super-rich don’t care about their taxes being raised, because they have every ability to bite that extra cost. However, the super-rich can’t fund an expansionist government and invariably the middle and lower classes take up the slack.

Populism is often linked to personal autonomy, and liberalism is the enemy of personal autonomy. Liberalism is a political doctrine that wishes to create a creaking welfare state that would attempt to regulate every aspect of everyone’s life. That is not populism. That is baby-step socialism. All one needs to do is look to Europe to see the inevitable consequences of such a system. Look at the UK’s National Health Service, which told a doctor to use a dessert spoon instead of a surgical instrument to save money. Look at the economies of France and Germany, economies in which taxation are at such rates that economic investment is nearly impossible – all to pay for a welfare state that is badly broken yet impervious to reform.

Then Max breaks in with this horrendously flawed assumption:

As far as pocketbook issues are concerned, the Right would never rule for long in a democratic society, but for the availability of external threats. External threats are engendered, provoked, concocted, or in the instance where they are real, milked obsessively for domestic political consumption.

The logic behind such a smear is deeply flawed. President Bush’s 2000 campaign was based primarily upon domestic issues. So too was the 1994 Republican congressional campaign. Nor is softness on critical issues of defense a benefit to liberalism. The reality of the world is that we live in a world of very real threats, and responding to those threats is critical to maintaining a stable nation. These threats, such as communism and terrorism were hardly "concocted" but were threats that liberalism never truly recognized or were willing to deal with.

Conservatism is not an ideology of the super-rich, despite the negative stereotypes used against it. It is primarily an ideology of the middle class, a wide-ranging constituency that consists of farmers to small business owners, auto workers to accountants. One of the reasons why liberalism is becoming an increasingly marginalized ideology in America is its weakness on national defense issues combined with a sense of false populism masking what is essentially an elitist ideology. Conservatism, strange as it seems to some, is truly an ideology of the people, while liberalism is an ideology of the government and the elites.

One thought on “Conservatism Is Populism

  1. Yes, the super-rich did favor Gore over Bush- but the majority of the “rich” (those who have over $1 mil in assets and a six-figure income, the upper-middle class) were Bush supporters in the last election.

    Heck, I saw the same phenomenon in South Dakota in the last Senate election- when I canvassed wealthier Sioux Falls neighborhoods (the country clubs, Prarie Green, Prarie Tree, Tuthill, etc) I found that support for John Thune was overwhelming (I did get quite a few Thunies to donate to CWA, who was supporting Johnson, ironically enough). On the other hand, when I visited working class and older neighborhoods in the center of town, support was more balanced. Poor north-side and downtown neighborhoods were overwhelmingly in favor of Johnson.)

    Of course, in a race between a moderate Dem and a conservative Rep, things get awfully screwy in SD… but I can’t see where the appeal in the conservative ideology is for the middle class. It seems like the elitist ideology to me- but maybe that’s just the conditioning that comes with being raised by a pair of McGovern Democrats… 🙂

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