Considering Donald Trump’s Brand Of Populism
[guest post by Dana]
Over at the Federalist, Robert Tracinski gives warning as he considers Trump’s self-styled populism:
Traditional conservative populism is: the elites think you’re rotten, but the joke’s on them because you’re actually better than them. You’re honest, hard-working, salt-of-earth people with heartland values, unlike those corrupt, effete, cynical jerks. This was often exaggerated and could amount to reverse snobbery, but there sure was something to it.
Trump’s version of populism is different. His message is: the elites think you’re rotten, so you might as well give up trying to be good. You’re never going to be politically correct enough, so throw out all standards of decency. They’re going to hate you anyway, so you might as well be what they hate you for. It’s an appeal to popular vice instead of popular virtue.
That’s the root of what’s awful about Donald Trump’s campaign: instead of offering voters a better version of themselves, he wants them to be the worst version of themselves. He wants to rise to highest office by dragging everybody else down.
Many commenters here believe that Trump followers are not nearly as much about “making America great again” as they are about taking revenge against any number of targets which include party elites, Democrats, political correctness, and the MSM. And if that requires a thuggish mentality, then so be it. All through the campaign, we have witnessed Trump skillfully stoke those flames of anger to his advantage. His obvious lack of understanding regarding any number of actual issues with which Americans are concerned seem to matter little to his followers. His obvious unfamiliarity with conservatism and its roots doesn’t matter either. And why would his supporters care given that they remain unfazed by his blatant inconsistencies, outright fabrications, and unethical behavior? They are angry that they have been ignored, betrayed, and unfairly pushed up against a wall and made to cry uncle. So here we are. As one commenter observed about Trump and his supporters: They are relying on one bully to destroy the other.
I think that conservatives (i.e. Cruz supporters) are just as angry and frustrated as Trump supporters. I know I am. But the difference, of course, is that Cruz supporters have chosen to go a different route in an effort to regain that which has been lost and that which is at odds with Trump and his supporters: solid conservative principles and ideals underpinning and influencing the decisions made by government on behalf of the American people. Therefore, by default, achieving this goal cannot include sacrificing decency or virtue. And holding fast to those qualities is no more a weakness than is thuggish behavior a strength.