Formerly Conservative Writer Foresees ‘Gradual Replacement Of Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan Conservatism’

Posted on Mon 03/14/2016 by

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Tom Johnson picture-58-1409692124By Tom Johnson ~

Writer Michael Lind thinks that movement conservatives are becoming a minor force in American politics, supplanted less by liberal Democrats than by what might be called Trump Republicans.

Michael LindIn a Wednesday article for Politico, Lind (pictured) contended that growing “populist discontent” is bringing about “the gradual replacement of Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan conservatism by something more like European national populist movements, such as the National Front in France.” He also opined that conservative ideas never were all that popular, claiming that movement conservatism as well as “neoconservatism, libertarianism, the religious right…appear to have been so many barnacles hitching free rides on the whale of the Jacksonian populist electorate.”

In the early 1990s, Lind, who’d been William F. Buckley Jr.’s research assistant and the executive editor of The National Interest, soured on conservatism, which he came to view as excessively solicitous of evangelicals, the militia movement, and the mega-rich. In 1999, he co-founded the left-of-center think tank New America, where he now specializes in economic issues.

From Lind’s piece (bolding added):

The best explanation of Trump’s surprising success is that the constituency he has mobilized has existed for decades but the right champion never came along…Like his fans, Trump is indifferent to the issues of sexual orientation that animate the declining religious right…[His] platform combines positions that are shared by many populists but are anathema to movement conservatives—a defense of Social Security, a guarantee of universal health care, economic nationalist trade policies…

Hostility to both illegal immigration and high levels of legal immigration, a position which free-market conservatives had fought to marginalize, has moved very quickly from heresy to orthodoxy in the GOP…

…No project is dearer to the hearts of mainstream movement conservatives than the goal of privatizing Social Security…But George W. Bush’s plan to partly privatize Social Security was so unpopular, even among Republican voters, that a Republican-controlled Congress did not even bother to vote on it…

…[W]hatever becomes of [Trump’s] candidacy, it seems likely that his campaign will prove to be just one of many episodes in the gradual replacement of Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan conservatism by something more like European national populist movements, such as the National Front in France and the United Kingdom Independence Party in Britain. Unlike Goldwater, who spearheaded an already-existing alliance consisting of National Review, Modern Age, and Young Americans for Freedom, Trump has followers but no supportive structure of policy experts and journalists. But it seems likely that some Republican experts and editors, seeking to appeal to his voters in the future, will promote a Trump-like national populist synthesis of middle-class social insurance plus immigration restriction and foreign policy realpolitik…

That’s looking ahead. Glancing backward, it is unclear that there has ever been any significant number of voters who share the worldview of the policy elites in conservative think tanks and journals. In hindsight, the various right-wing movements—the fusionist conservatism of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan, neoconservatism, libertarianism, the religious right—appear to have been so many barnacles hitching free rides on the whale of the Jacksonian populist electorate. The whale is awakening beneath them, and now the barnacles don’t know what to do.

Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.

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