Populists, Conservatives, and the GOP’s Uncertain Future – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

What is a Tory or a Republican, anyway?

A conservative can be a Republican and vice versa, but although the words are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous; in fact, many conservatives today are skeptical of the Republican Party, while many Republicans surely still believe they are conservatives.

Before we get past the puzzles and get to the definitions, the tweet that prompted this column was from Ron Nehring, a former chairman of the California Republican Party. Nehring is both a Tory and a Republican and – judging by his tweets and public comments – is someone who is concerned about the leadership of the Republican Party.

Nehring was responding to news that an alleged January 6 conspirator had texted others allegedly involved that the “civil war had started” as people stormed the United States Capitol.

Nehring’s response: “‘The civil war has begun’ Those who rioted, damaged property, assaulted and killed a policeman are neither ‘conservatives’ nor ‘republicans’. They do not share conservative values ​​at all.

I agree with the sentiment, but I don’t agree that storming Capitol cannot be Republican. Technically, anything can be Republican.

What it means to be a Republican or a member of any other political party would be defined in a way by the platform of the party, but more so by what the members want, which is usually embodied by its leaders.

By this definition, the Republican Party is Donald Trump’s party until someone supplants him as leader (this is not a criticism of Trump; the Democratic Party is Joe Biden’s). And since January 6 was the crescendo of the Trumpian Symphony, it’s hard to say it wasn’t Republican.

Defining conservative is a bit more difficult.

The American conservative movement over the past six or seven decades has formed and developed largely in opposition to communism. As the roots of the movement go back to British MP Edmund Burke in the mid-1700s, I write about the period beginning with National Review founder William F. Buckley’s run as Conservative for Mayor of New York City. in 1965 by former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater book “A Conservative’s Conscience” until the end of the Ronald Reagan era.

Much of the movement was made up of small libertarian governments, foreign policy hawks and social conservatives, all united against communism. As such, there has always been some gimmicking about who the real conservative is, but the real conservatives seem to me to be the ones who focus the most on individual freedom and oppose an expansive government.

The movement was founded on classic liberal ideas such as free markets, civil liberties, limited government, and individualism. The thriving conservatives sought to preserve what was dear to them, such as nature, liberty, and societal institutions, including religion, the Constitution, a post-WWII order, and free thought.

In the face of the growing threat of communism, conservative publications such as National Review have sought to “stand through history and cry Stop.” Thanks to the brilliance and persuasion of Buckley and countless others, the Conservatives took control of the Republican Party, culminating in the presidency of Ronald Reagan. But when the Berlin Wall fell, the Republican Party constituencies had less in common.

Populism grew, led by Pat Buchanan, who received 23% of the vote in the 1992 Republican primary, and slowly but steadily grew into today’s Republican Party, which is ideologically Trumpian – a form of populism of law.

As conservatives retained Where conservatives sought to expand America’s role in the world, populists became increasingly isolationist. The Conservatives are for free trade, the populists for tariffs. Etc.

Of course, there is an overlap. Buckley surely would have agreed with Trump on some issues, but would have hated Trump’s isolationism, his lack of commitment to free markets, the imposition of a big government, authoritarianism, immorality and laity. rudeness.

But back to Nehring’s point: January 6 was a populist uprising and directly opposed Buckley’s view of the world. Remember, January 6 was not just the violence of the people who stormed the Capitol. There was an attempted coup inside the Capitol as some members of Congress attempted to pervert the Constitution to make their man the victor, an effort fueled by fantasies of widespread voter fraud and other conspiracy theories.

January 6 was an abandonment of conservative principles. January 6 was precisely the radicalism that the Conservatives had long fought against.

This is where Nehring’s tweet is totally correct. Basically, conservatism is not a set of positions; it is a set of principles, stemming from the idea that all humans are created equal, with God-given rights that are protected by government only with the consent of the governed. This is what the Conservatives are trying to keep.

Populists, on the other hand, want what they want when they want it because, damn it, that’s what the people want. Unfortunately, populist impulses are reactionary and unpredictable and can easily destroy on a whim what most of us hold dear. And to be clear, the right does not have a monopoly on populism.

I have no idea what the future holds for the Conservative movement. But know that the Republican Party’s descent into populism is why conservatives like Nehring are shouting “Stop”.

Matt Fleming is a member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group. You can follow him on Twitter: @FlemingWords.

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