Over the course of the last 16 months, I have listened as populists demonized the conservative wing of the Republican Party as elitists, Constitution-worshipers and intellectual snobs. Apparently, the great mistake of the conservative wing was to put principle ahead of an emotional mob mentality; a mentality which has often served as the germ for the herd throwing itself off of a cliff. Certainty is easy when it costs you nothing and the populists have never had anything to lose. At heart, the populist desires to be a hangman, the one who gets to nail Christ to the Cross, a petty tyrant whose tyranny is made powerful by the attainment of the fellowship of a million other petty tyrants.
Populists are quick to get behind charismatic men – behind anyone that frightens or annoys the powers-that-be; but unfortunately for them, their leaders always disappoint. The individual agents of the populist mob are often considered “useful idiots” by the very men they choose to follow, an abhorrent and acceptable reality in their minds. After all, it’s not the leader they follow; but the wrath, the upheaval, the judgment and the adjudication of that judgment.
Populism has no place in the Republican Party.
First, the average US Citizen is generally unaware how government works. It is easy to demand that the government does a thing; it is much more difficult for the government to do a thing well. That any course of action is taken responsibly is of the utmost importance, but populists demand purity and immediacy from their government and do not take a long-view of their demands.
Second, the average US Citizen doesn’t understand markets or economics. They don’t understand that tariffs are not taxes on foreign firms, but taxes paid by American consumers. They do not understand that taxes on businesses are paid by those who consume that business’s product or service. They demand solutions which look good today, without thinking about potential consequences in the future. For populism to work, it must be an educated populism – something the world has yet to experience.
Third, the average US Citizen isn’t interested in the future. The most popular programs our government offers grants a great deal to those who are here now, but offers very little to those who will eventually pay for the programs in the future. Democracy provides politicians with the most easily manipulated electorate. The US Citizen has a short memory and whatever the politician promises today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Fourth, the average US Citizen is too busy or too disinterested to investigate political and economic matters for themselves. This means that most of their opinions are predicated upon the media they choose to listen to; and while the established media is far less powerful than it used to be, it can still sway a large number of votes. Today, even an Alex Jones can have an effect.
Fifth, the reasons why populist movements begin are almost always valid. The trouble is, that the people do not take the threats seriously. They think the problems they face can be changed if only this person or that were in power. They have no idea how big the system is around them. They have no idea how little one man or one woman can do from any one position in government. Populist movements always end in disappointment, because the populists themselves never take it upon themselves to get educated and involved in the system. They spit at the system. They shake their fists at the system. They elect strong men to dominate a system no strong man can rule alone. Everything blows up in their face and the populists retreat into the shadows of politics nursing feelings of frustration, disappointment and resentment.
Republicanism, on the other hand, works. Capitalism works. Free Trade works. The Constitution preserves our liberty. Recognizing that families are the principle unit of a strong society and nurturing those virtues which encourage strong families – works. While not a political sentiment, faith in Jesus Christ and a relationship with God works. The Judeo-Christian work-ethic works.
We already know what works and what doesn’t work – therefore, it baffles me that instead of reviving the principles and building blocks of a strong society and a vibrant economy, we would rather react emotionally to recent bipartisan departures from these principles. It’s the principles that make a thing possible. You cannot build a tall building without a deep and sturdy foundation. Populists always seem to lose sight of this, building towers on beaches and destined to watch them quickly come apart, tumbling down around them.
Do I believe that our Representatives should be held accountable for their mistakes? Of course I do. Do I believe that change in leadership is necessary when a Party loses sight of the interests of those they represent? You bet.
However, populism isn’t the answer. Republicanism is. Capitalism is. Constitutionalism is. Family and community, faith in God and a reverence for His virtues are the answer. If you find that to be elitist, snobbish or out-of-touch, then you are no doubt just one small part of a larger herd racing toward a Hegelian future you’re destined never to discover – leaving a torrent of misery in your long meandering march to nowhere.