I think good conservatism naturally includes at least a degree of populism, though probably not too much.
What is “populism”? That’s what irked my about David French’s article that dismissed Carlson’s ideas as “populist.” Something being popular amongst the rank-and-file doesn’t make it unworthy any more than something being popular amongst the elitists makes it worthy. Snobbery doesn’t make for good politics. And undefined and fuzzy words such as “populism” tell us little other than that people are hiding behind words.
One very large problem that the Republicans and the chattering conservative press have is that they’ll speak glowingly in broad ideas but are short on specifics. In that regard, Tucker Carlson’s words are as potentially forgettable as those of the regular chattering class of conservative talking heads.
But there are broad descriptions that can describe the mess. And that this is so is no reason to denounce these broad descriptions for lack of specifics. But the Republican Party and the chattering class are top-heavy with broad ideas and short on specifics on implementing those ideas.
Specifics offend people, especially because they almost always (given the vast size and reach of government) threaten to take away somebody’s money or power. And when some specifics are discussed, they become but meaningless words. The chattering class (and those elected by them) has been chattering on forever about getting rid of the Department of Education, for instance. But it’s still there.
We’re being royally screwed over — if only in terms of finances — by the political classes of both parties, including the elitists of industry. To denounce one as a “populist” for pointing this out (as French did) is absurdly short-sighted.
And the one defense of cold, amoral capitalism most relevant in this discussion is missing from the supposed elitist chattering conservative talking heads. And that is that, in the words of Gordon Gecko,
The point is, ladies and gentlemen, greed is good. Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind
Gecko, of course, was a Romney-like snake. HIs words (if brash) are apt, but he only ever intended to break up Teldar Paper, not save it. To rephrase his dishonest appeal (but which is essentially correct in a very important way): Societies that chase morality as its highest cause tend to become hell. Those whose purpose is industry, to produce something, to earn more today than yesterday, are the places most people want to live in. The role of government is, to a large extent, that of impartial arbitrator and regulator. Throw in a certain amount of “social safety net” and a few privileges for those who actually run industry, and you have an ugly, but workable, balance.
But now we live in an era of Big Government where there are huge hand-outs at both ends of the spectrum, and your normal working-class fellow has to pay for all this. I think Tucker Carlson, however inexactly, was expressing this fact. And that’s also the means by which Donald Trump — otherwise a vulgar ass, but a guy who made promises to this “forgotten” middle class — got elected. It also means if he doesn’t follow through with a wall, he’s toast. And given that we are being invaded from the south, it is right and proper that he use his powers as Commander in Chief to fix it. The chattering conservative class does not agree. But then I have little use for these fellows these days. Chattering pays their bills, but it is of little use otherwise.