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Do right-wing populists exist?

Daniel Larison can’t find any: [1]

One reason why “no populist politician has been able to deliver an agenda to match” is that there haven’t been many populist politicians on the right in the first place. When Ross says that Republican voters deserve “a better class of right-wing populist,” I agree with him. The first step in getting better populists is to distinguish between the politicians whose “populism” consists of folksy mummery and those interested in breaking up concentrations of wealth and power. Until there are Republican candidates interested in both of those goals, there is little chance that any of them will propose policies that will achieve them.

I had a conversation with a Tea Party-supporting friend who has been watching Fox News reports on the anti-Wall Street protests, and is just sick and tired of those idiots down there hating on capitalism. I pointed out that whatever the character of the protesters, it really is the case that there are problems with Wall Street and an imbalance of power in this country, and the protesters are right to object to that. I got nowhere. It is simply a fact that on the Right today, there is no constituency for breaking up concentrations of wealth and power, except government wealth and government power.

In the case of Rick Perry, his “populism” consists almost entirely of folksy mummery and playing to religious conservatives in Texas. But I repeat myself.

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24 Comments To "Do right-wing populists exist?"

#1 Comment By Frank On October 5, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

Rod,

I think the biggest problem with the Tea Party (and I say this based on personal oberservation of those self-proclaimed tea partiers that I know) is that they think they are a populist movement, when in fact they are doing the bidding of the corporate elite who wish to maintain their authority over the economy and financial condition of the Republic. Thus, many of them claim to want to “follow the Constitution”, but when you start outlining the implications of such, you are confronted with such hypocrasies as – wanting to continue the overseas military operations, social security and medicare are inherent rights, because they earned them, although socialism – i.e. anything Obama does regardless of how closely it resembles what their Republican heros did in the 2000’s is evil.

As long as the Tea Party keeps picking up the flag and making the case for corporate welfare and government secured Wall Street profits, the will never accomplish anything. The worst part of it is, most of them don’t even appreciate how contradictory many of the things they say are. How esle can you hear someone in the same sentence proclaim Obamacare socilism, but talk about preserving Medicare. BTW. if the individual inquestion is already on Medicare, then suggesting it be ended makes you evil, because you want them to die.

#2 Comment By DS On October 5, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

Consider the possibility that the government “breaking up concentrations of wealth and power” will not result in wealth and power being dispersed to more people, but will result in wealth and power being concentrated in a government that craves both.

Maybe that’s why there’s not much populism on the right — the current economic worries don’t override the fear of permanently bigger government.

#3 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 5, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

DS, I don’t see why, for example, breaking up the Too Big To Fail banks is an example of the “socialism” that Tea Partiers fear.

#4 Comment By JonF On October 5, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

Isn’t it weird that the Tea Party was doing its share of hating on Wall Street when they thought Obama was the banks’ best friend, but now that some leftwing folk are protesting the banks they are suddenly switching to support for the banks? That alone suggests the Tea Party folks are about as sincere (in their populism) as a flim-flam man.

#5 Comment By MattSwartz On October 5, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

Right-wing populists exist; they even win elections. It’s just that they can’t win statewide elections because fundraising is so difficult for them.

What we need is an educated populace that reads, researches, and discusses the candidates with their neighbors rather than bowling alone and voting for whoever produces the shiniest (most expensive) ad campaign.

#6 Comment By bob c On October 5, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

Thanks for framing this with the insights from OccupyWallStreet.

Its the brave insights like this:

It is simply a fact that on the Right today, there is no constituency for breaking up concentrations of wealth and power, except government wealth and government power.

And Frank’s comment is so spot on, I wish he would blog himself !

#7 Comment By Stef On October 5, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

The right wing will never be populist as long as (many, not all) conservatives identify so closely with the “1%.” In that sense they’re like a lot of Americans, who don’t want to face how poor they are – how lower-middle class they are – because they see themselves as potential millionaires in temporarily reduced circumstances.

What the right doesn’t realize is how much *contempt* the 1% probably holds for them, and that there’s a big party at the tippy-top of the pyramid to which the right wing will *never* be invited.

Another reason the right will not be populist is because they fear all “those people” they’d have to hang around with in order to, well, be populist. The world of “the rest of us” includes racial minorities; ugly people; fat people; gay people; mentally and physically ill people; poor people; broken people.

As far as #occupywallst, I’m reserving my opinion. I don’t want to see them made the tools of either the right *or* the left. At present, I sense that it’s largely a creature of the left, and I wonder if a bunch of Midwestern baseball-cap wearing, white t-shirt clad middle-aged men with American flags showed up, could they all get along? Is there something here that actually could transcend this poisonous political divide into which we’ve backed ourselves?

#8 Comment By MichaelS On October 5, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

“folksy mummery …” Kinda like Sarah Palin. I’m glad she made her announcement on the day a true world-historic visionary and achiever, Steve Jobs, passed away. Her announcement is reported as the tiny footnote it is, as reports and retrospectives on Jobs dominate the headlines.

#9 Comment By Libertarian Jerry On October 5, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

….Let’s face it,the Elites behind the scenes control today’s paradigms both left and right. These Elites co opted the Ron Paul Revolution Tea Party with NeoCon infiltration and at the same time have,for decades, funded the so called “radical Left” in America. Throughout history the International Elites have funded both sides in almost every war and have bought off both major political parties. The Elite Globalist design is world domination,a New World Order and a One World Socialist government with them in charge. These are truly evil,diabolical men.Just follow the money trail and it will usually lead back to these elitists through their tax free Foundations and Endowments. Their goal is to bankrupt America and the West through their Central Bank money manipulations and therefor bring the Western World to it’s knees,thus making it easier to achieve a One World Government. Fools like Perry and the other Republican Candidates(save Ron Paul) are nothing but puppets on a string. If the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters were really serious about change they wouldn’t picket Wall Street bankers and stockbrokers but instead would occupy and picket The Federal Reserve Central Bank in Washington D.C.

#10 Comment By Ben On October 5, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

I’m not playing the “whaaa happend?” guy, I’m sincerely confused. I thought Tea Party folks hated Wall Street/the Banks more than anyone..wasn’t it the bailouts that started the whole movement? I’m almost positive I’m remembering correctly. Did something change or am I totally off?

One of the things I really liked about the tea party was their anti-corporatist streak. Did I misinterpret the whole movement, lol?

#11 Comment By Surly On October 5, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

I think you may have. The Tea Party started not because they objected to the banks being bailed out, but because they objected to Obama’s stimulus plan and his plan to do something about health care. “Get the government out of my Medicare” was an internet meme, but had a kernel of truth to it–the very people objecting to OTHER people getting access to health insurance were themselves covered by Medicare.

I could be wrong, but I remember their ire being directed at the government–not at Wall Street for causing the whole economic mess that necessitated the stimulus in the first place.

And I could be wrong and I’ll go google, but if I remember correctly, the banks were bailed out in 2008–before Obama took office.

#12 Comment By RedRabbit On October 6, 2011 @ 12:27 am

Ben, the bailouts were a factor, yes. But I think it was more anger over government enacting the bailouts with tax money than it was about who got the bailout money.

I don’t think that movement has ever truly held any real malice towards Wall Street.

#13 Comment By Naturalmom On October 6, 2011 @ 12:39 am

Stef speaks my mind.

Also, the occupy wall street movement might (or might not) be a small version of what is a huge crisis in so many other countries — a generation of young adults who feel they’ve been duped and are destined for lives much more economically stunted than their parents. They see no bright future for themselves or their peers. They are angry and frightened and deeply in debt for a college degree that isn’t doing much for them, and may not ever do much for them. (History suggests that when the economy picks up again, they will be passed over for jobs in favor of more recent graduates and more experienced workers re-entering their fields.) I’ve seen a number of news articles wondering what this group of protestors wants, since they seem to be making few and/or vague demands. I think maybe they just want the rest of us to know how angry and frightened they are.

#14 Comment By Georgiaboy61 On October 6, 2011 @ 1:25 am

Few conservatives, and even fewer members of the GOP, seem willing to face the fact that big business and big govt. are equally deserving of scrutiny and skepticism. The possible exception might be found among paleo-cons, the assorted libertarian, and constitutional conservatives.
My primary objection to great wealth is not class envy; it is the enormous concentration of political power that it permits, thereby subverting our system of “one man, one vote.” We have arrived at a near neo-fascist state, after Mussolini’s definition – the fusion of the corporation and the govt. – by refusing to deal with the convergence of private and public wealth and power. There are plenty of those on the left willing to go after corporate America, and plenty of those on the right willing to go after the govt., but few willing to do both – as populism requires. The litmus test for the Tea Party movement will come if/when the GOP rewins the White House. Will the TP keep the pressure on for accountability in govt., or stand down now that the left has been ejected from power? Time will certainly tell.

#15 Comment By Sean Scallon On October 6, 2011 @ 1:44 am

“just sick and tired of those idiots down there hating on capitalism”

Really? The what is the point of his Tea Party membership since his tax money was supposedly used to preserve the capitalist system according to his former hero “W”? Or is it because, like Greg Santelli, he’s more offended his tax money might have to go pay for his neighbor’s home, the dark-skinned Jones who moved in and got the nice house next to him because of the subprime loan the bankers traded back and forth like so many pork-bellies before they went “belly” up.

The capitalism system is a wonderful thing indeed if one mere sells a good or service for a community’s benefit and done not only as profit but as a labor of love and to be one’s own boss. One wishes the protestors could somehow understand the head shops they frequent are capitalist entities too. William Jennings Bryan knew the farmer, no matter how big or small, is a capitalist and businessman. He simply wants a fair shake, a fair chance to compete, a level playing field for these small capitalists.

What has to be protested is concentration of power and wealth into the hands of the few. And not just the hands of plutocrats like days of old, but concentrated wealth in centralized systems like the Federal Reserve which greatly shape people’s lives and communities well-being without their consent much less their acknowledgement. It’s this power which helps to take the nation to war illegally, it spends it bleeds the treasury dry, it leaves whole places destroyed by its control of the system to its benefit not matter what the field of economics. Of the people running for President, Ron Paul is the only candidate running against this centralization, ergo the populists in the field.

What’s sad is seeing people wishing to preserve the same centralization for their own pet causes, most of which have nothing to do with economics. Do they not realize what they wish to create will ultimately be corrupted because it exists, not just because “other side runs it.” They should have learned by now after two and half years of Obama.

#16 Comment By Sean Scallon On October 6, 2011 @ 1:49 am

Big Business and Big Government do not exist independently of each other. One exists because of the other and vise-versa.

#17 Pingback By The American Conservative » Republican Populism On October 6, 2011 @ 7:19 am

[…] Larison and Rod Dreher both discuss the status of populism in the Republican party. Larison’s reference to […]

#18 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 6, 2011 @ 7:24 am

Re: The Tea Party started not because they objected to the banks being bailed out, but because they objected to Obama’s stimulus plan and his plan to do something about health care.

I suspect a fair number objected to Obama, period. Especially his being a black man who had the temerity to be President.

Personally I have very little fondness for Obama, and in particular I loathe his position on abortion rights, but I think it’s impossible to deny that in the visceral, frothing-at-the-mouth he seems to inspire in some people, complete with the most hoary racist imagery, there’s more than a bit of good old-fashioned bigotry.

#19 Comment By JLF On October 6, 2011 @ 8:56 am

When Stef wrote at 8:26 pm, “What the right doesn’t realize is how much *contempt* the 1% probably holds for them, and that there’s a big party at the tippy-top of the pyramid to which the right wing will *never* be invited”

I had a flashback to Leona Helmsly dismissing her maid wtih “only little people pay taxes.”

#20 Comment By Ben On October 6, 2011 @ 11:31 am

Ok, thanks for the help. I did some reading, I guess where I went wrong was in assuming tea party people were basically Ron Paul people. As far as I can tell, it started that way but then morphed into something else?

When Rod wrote, “I had a conversation with a Tea Party-supporting friend who has been watching Fox News reports on the anti-Wall Street protests..”

I assumed he was going to write that his friend was angry at Fox News for their disparaging coverage, and that maybe this was going to turn bad for the conservative media establishment, so I was confused when the exact opposite followed, heh. It’s still weird, though. I feel like I have vivid memories of tea party folks being very anti big business. Maybe I have a few different groups/movements confused in my mind.

#21 Comment By Ben On October 6, 2011 @ 11:50 am

I just noticed that Kevin Drum has a link up to an article that addresses this very issue. I haven’t read it yet, but at least I know now that I’m not crazy, lol. Apparently a lot of people are/were similarly confused about the tea party.

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 6, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

“I suspect a fair number objected to Obama, period. Especially his being a black man who had the temerity to be President.”

That wasn’t Tea Party 1.0 or 2.0. That was Tea Party 2.3 or 3.1.

First, there was Santelli’s quintessential Wall Street wrap about rescuing homeowners and rewarding bad behaviour.

Then, there were the homeowners struggling with mortgages, who resented the bail out of Wall Street with their tax dollars. (You can’t get much more diametrically opposite than that, but that is the early history of the Tea Party theme.)

Then, the people Hector is talking about, the ones who simply wanted to scream loudly about how much they disapproved of Obama rushed in.

After that, the professional Republican operatives took over.

The Tea Party means to those who identify as Tea Party, exactly what each person chooses for it to mean. Democrats and so-called “liberals” ignore that at their peril. It is not a big bad bogey-man implacable enemy, it is a lot of confused people targeted by some sharp operators. A bit of Sun-Tzu methodology is called for, not a rhetorical Firewall.

Like most Americans, I’d make a few changes if I ran the zoo, but on the whole, I think President Obama has done a good job, and I have a 2012 sticker pasted on the end of my Obama 2008 sticker. I don’t place a high premium on abortion in choosing how to vote, but as a libertarian, I appreciate that he has respected the constitutional right of citizens (including women) to make private choices without interference by The State.

#23 Comment By RedRabbit On October 6, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

RE: Ok, thanks for the help. I did some reading, I guess where I went wrong was in assuming tea party people were basically Ron Paul people. As far as I can tell, it started that way but then morphed into something else?

You can certainly find individuals in that movement who care about some of the things Paul does, like more scrutiny for the Fed or hard money policies.

But that is generally where they part ways. They mostly do not share his attitudes on foreign policy, or the idea that borders should be open so individuals and their money can move where they market encourages them.

#24 Comment By Jeremy On August 7, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

So long as the Right looks to the State to control concentrations of wealth – that same State that continually picks winners and losers and is responsible for the concentrations of wealth in the first place – instead of to real free-markets and the institution of private property, they can only hope to exchange one group of corporatist masters for another. We’re not going to restore a healthy society by becoming leftists.