Ross Douthat: The Pull of Populism

Ross Douthat continues to write about the failure of Trump’s populism:

“One of the striking features of Donald Trump’s first year in office was the all-but-complete abandonment of the populist economic vision upon which he successfully campaigned. Candidate Trump stiff-armed Republican economic orthodoxy and won the Midwest by promising a flood of infrastructure spending, universal health care, protectionism, middle-class tax cuts — a right-wing Keynesianism for the common man. But as president he defaulted to Paul Ryan’s agenda, chasing the Tea Party dream of Obamacare repeal, issuing a budget proposal thick with discretionary spending cuts, and pursuing a tax reform tilted heavily toward corporations.

The best way to understand this turn was to recognize that personnel are policy, and since “Trumpism” was an unexpected irruption and Trump himself is not exactly the sort of guy who worries about having a policy brain trust, the people available to staff and guide his administration were inevitably more conventionally conservative than the half-sketched ideas of his campaign. Once Steve Bannon, the only inner-circle figure with an ideological vision, flamed out spectacularly as a Karl Rove-like eminence, a default to Ryanism was all-but-guaranteed, and with it the abandonment of Trump’s promise to remake the G.O.P. as a “worker’s party.” …”

This has been a running theme with Douthat. He has already written about it several times this year. Two weeks ago, the drift had gotten so bad that Douthat and Ben Domenech have implored Trump to be more populist, and that was before the Trump budget was released.

Douthat understands there isn’t a Republican majority and therefore a platform for ideological conservatism without that “populist-nationalist” base. As things stand today, it is the base upon which Paul Ryan and Mick Mulvaney stand to implement things like tax reform, healthcare reform and welfare reform. Trump’s plan in the 2018 election cycle is to blame the Democrats for the failure to build his border wall and cynically cater to the base with dog whistling about cultural issues at his mass rallies.

Anyway, the theme of this article is that populism will always exercise a gravitational pull on the Republican Party because there isn’t a majority for conservatism without populist swing voters. Donald Trump has imperiled that by making it too obvious that he doesn’t give a shit about those people in between his neoconservative foreign policy, neoliberal economic policies and cultural warrior tweets. Douthat is hopeful this burst of military spending will be seen as populist.

In our circles, a fight is brewing between one side that strongly wants to keep supporting Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which is more conservative and libertarian, and another side that strongly wants to abandon the Republicans, which is ideologically more populist. In the wider electorate, the determining factor in the 2018 elections is shaping up to be the Democrats who don’t have a policy agenda aside from pandering to illegal aliens, #MeTooism and the Russia narrative.

Lots of voters are stuck in the middle and don’t see any good options. The Democrats don’t have a more compelling idea than MAGA. They have been on C-SPAN2 making the case for the DREAM Act by citing CATO Institute studies about how cutting legal immigration will undermine the economy. The faces of the Democratic Party are gentry liberals like Nancy Pelosi and that drooling Kennedy scion. They could really end up blowing the 2018 midterms by positioning themselves solely as an anti-Trump backlash.

Obama’s compelling argument was that he was going to end these stupid wars started by the Bush administration, quit pandering to Wall Street, end racial division and later when he was reelected that he wasn’t Mitt Romney. What is the compelling argument for the Democrats?

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8 Comments

    • Bernie an old jew? Bernie is a non-practicing jew. So what you’re saying is like if you were born into a cult, that makes you a cult member forever. Bernie’s a Brooklyn street kid who had to overcome his family poverty, and care so much for people he got involved in working to make life better for everyone who really needed life to be better. Old? Ok you try running for office of the Presidency and tell me who’s old! Wisdom, a ‘moral compass’, a good heart and the tough-mindedness/tenacity of a lion or a badger or whatever, ought to count for something like as everything! Well, at least those corporate, corrupt democrats who want to get reelected are not republican corporate republicans who want to get reelected, both of whom are supported by the status quo, pro-corruption, anti-everyday, working class, everyman/woman like who support the occupy movement. That you’re alienated and worried about jews, black people and others who you are not all so familiar with and are antagonistic against, shows me your lack of connection to real life and it’s inhabitants. Well, I probably have that ALL wrong about you, since you’re saying to listen to Bernie. The dems look hellbent to stay dysfunctional and antagonistic to it’s own base of the progressive wing of the progressive party. But the republicans absolutely hate their base too who are obviously too stupid to know it with their hatred, fear, and willful arrogance stoked with strong propaganda from their beginning. And then there’s these dumb media bashing of populism filled with confusing poppycock to continue the divide and conquer techniques in politics to maintain the idiot, corrupt power-elitist who are multimillionaires politicians, risk-takers narcissists. Pitchforks won’t do anymore – they got an unconstitutional army in blue uniforms and all the thugs have guns. Mindless greed is king – just look at the chosen leader who today says he against spousal abuse as the hush money of $130,00 to a prostitute, Stormy Daniels, gets acknowledge which is an unprovable crime, but not they’re working on that. The whole world knows he’s cheating on his wife – how embarrassing. And what a world class prick. Is he making America great again or ashamed of itself? Disgusting ‘mother’ certainly riles up and energizes not only the angry feminist, but the corporate democratic party members.

      • @akg96

        Sanders is a leftwing Communist who is pro immigration, pro feminist and anti- white……and just happens to be Jewish! Just a Cohen-cidence perhaps???

    • Have the Republicans NO shame? The law and order party? Hah! Patriotic like a 30 million dollar parade like some two bit banana republic or North Korea, etc.? Such racists and nazis in the Grand Old Party, not that it’s really grand – just too big. The RNC hate…about everyone but not Donald.

  1. Trumps just a doughnut (nothing in the middle) and a turncoat who wouldn’t stand up to the cockroachs hidden behind the scenes.
    The public voted for Donald Trump and got Bergsteinthal. The onus should have been on Trump to stand up to the Jews.
    Your enemies are only ever as bad as what you let them get away with.

  2. “In our circles, a fight is brewing between one side that strongly wants to keep supporting Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which is more conservative and libertarian, and another side that strongly wants to abandon the Republicans, which is ideologically more populist”

    Not true at all. This is a distinction you’ve made up in your head to justify your personal rhetorical posture toward the Alt Right. It is you alone who see these internal differences in such manichean terms. I think its because you felt spurned by certain segments of the movement after CVIlle/WLM, and now you have scorn for those who you feel spurned you, so you package up all these people up with Trump in your mind and summarily dismiss the bundle because why work with people who have spurned you? It’s an indignity that no proud man should suffer! Right? So you look for ways to justify not working together.

    The rest of us see each other as being on the same side, disagreements about methods and Trump notwithstanding. It is pretty much just you that is insisting on depreciating everyone who refuses to tow your ridiculous line on the absolute malevolence of Trumpism and America in general. “Anyone that questions Trump’s pure evil are just Trump fanboys, nothing more to it.” How long can you go on saying this with a straight face? I get that you’ll always have a fan section to post “Yup!” in the comments, but many of us who have been reading for years and never felt the need to comment before are dismayed.

    Because some of us have a more subtle point of view. If you want to try to make it seem like we’re on a different side than you because of that, that’s up to you. But its INSANE if you ask me and you’re only going to end up marginalizing yourself, which is incredibly painful for me personally to contemplate.

    “Any white people who don’t see it my way can just go to hell then! I’ll go it alone!” <- this is why all pro-white movements have failed.

    The rest of us understand we're all on the same team and have to deal with each other's differences and idiosyncrasies, including different opinions about Trump, Trumpism and the Trump administration. There's no room in your universe for such honest disagreement between white men evidently.

    But I think obviously the more I try to convince you, the more intransigent you become, the closer the Ross Douthat you feel and the less likely it is you will tap the brakes because it becomes too ego-expensive at that point. So I'll probably just stop because I can't possibly say it better than I already have.

    As to your idea of abandoning domestic politics (a/k/a the two party system), that's great. I'm all for it. But you know that can only happen under three circumstances, right? (1) USA loses a major war, (2) catastrophic economic collapse, (3) catastrophic domestic political crisis.

    Which one of those things is happening right now? None of them. There's potential for all three, and if and when one of them happens I'll be right there with you. But I am a realist so I understand that unless and until one of the three happens, all you're talking about doing is pulling out of politics altogether, i.e., surrender and pout in the corner while the enemy consolidates its power in our bases.

    I'll never do it.

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