“Conservative populism” is a transition phase.
Bourbonism went extinct in the first decade of the 20th century. It reemerged in the mid-20th century in reaction to the New Deal. We’re headed back toward a Populist vs. Progressive alignment.
In 2012, the Republican Party was a conservative coalition in the waning years of the Reagan era. In 2017, it was a conservative-populist coalition under Trump. In 2021, it is still a conservative-populist coalition, but now post-Trump the populist wing is ascendant on social issues and growing stronger on economics. By 2025, the Republican Party will be a populist coalition on social issues and economics.
“One of the perennial challenges of conservative politics in democratic countries is that conservative policies aren’t, generally speaking, very popular. That may be inevitable for those whose worldviews embrace militant capitalism, a limited role for government in redressing wrongs, the moral unfitness of the undeserving poor, and a natural order of things that consigns large majorities to a subordinate positions in society and the economy. Some conservatives, moreover, are soldiers of authoritarian religious and/or cultural movements that are not terribly compatible with the ebb and flow of the political marketplace at any given moment. A lot of right-wing parties around the world have accepted much of the modern welfare state. But here in the U.S., conservatives have grudgingly accepted the popularity of liberal policies.
By way of compensation for their built-in disadvantages, U.S. conservatives over the years have become adept at posing as champions of the real salt-of-the-earth Americans, in a fight against liberal elites who despise both the values and the material interests of regular folks. This “conservative populism” should not be confused with the nearly extinct tradition of liberal Republicanism, common in some parts of the country before the post-civil-rights ideological sorting out of the two parties. Liberal Republicans typically competed with Democrats for the allegiance of many of the same voters, deploying many of the same messages and policies. Right-wing “populists” haven’t so much competed with Democrats as they have denied their legitimacy as representatives of the “silent majority” (a term devised by pioneer conservative populist Richard Nixon and revived by Donald Trump). But at this point in the 21st century, conservative populism and the Republican Party are both at a negative inflection point, having lost power in Washington and now facing hostile demographic trends. …”
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