April 20, 2016
Conservatism vs. National Populism
Nationalism and populism are now the amorphous terms used to inject meaning into the Trump presidential campaign – terms to distinguish this new movement from the limited-government principles that have been at the heart of the conservative movement over the last half-century. While American conservatism includes a strong sense of what many confuse for "nationalism" – patriotism and a love of country – it is distinct from the true nationalism peddled by Trump supporters, which is removed from the principles of limited government and individual liberty at the heart of the American way of life. Conservative author and radio host Mark Levin said in a speech at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that conservatism is not about "nationalism or populism, phrases that have no concrete meaning or constitutional basis." Conservatism is constructed on a solid set of principles, based on an understanding of human nature and guided by the example of the Founding Fathers. It is a defense of the principles infused in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence – the cornerstones of American civilization that make this nation truly exceptional.
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However, the failures of nationalism and populism in other countries should serve as a warning to American conservatives tempted to embrace them. Not only have nationalist movements in Europe and Latin America failed to check the rise of leftism and socialism, but they have led to their own catastrophes and brought destruction to the people supporting them. [. . .] Nationalism as a standalone ideology rendered the minority, and individuals, defenseless against the powers wielded by the despots in charge.
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South America has greatly suffered as a result of populist rule. The supposed "leaders of the people" above have one thing in common: they left their countries in worse shape than when they stepped into office. There are no checks that can be applied to a populist ruler. Nationalist populism, without limitations on the size of government and laws to protect individual liberty, enables tyranny to thrive. It creates a nation of men and not laws, the exact opposite of what America's founders intended for our country. Rather than help the "working man," the nationalist populist doctrine destroys his opportunities and creates a system of lawlessness in which only the powerful and connected truly thrive.
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A popular uprising against the American elite and bipartisan corruption need not mirror the eventually tyrannical ideologies that have plagued much of the world.
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Popular anxiety about the direction of the country and its fall from greatness flows from real problems, both foreign and domestic, that have been largely ignored by the elites of both parties. But nationalist populism has not solved these problems in other countries; rather, it has made them worse. In the words of an Argentine journalist, "populism loves the poor so much [that] it multiplies them." [. . .] American greatness lies in restoring her institutions and Founding principles, not in the siren song that has destroyed lives in Latin America and Europe.
April 13, 2016
A Crisis for the Right: Conservatism or Nationalist Populism
By Jordan Schachtel and Jarrett Stepman