Missing the Populist Moment

From Palin to Perry, the G.O.P.’s outsider candidates keep disappointing.

Comments: 111

  1. Sorry, Mr. Douthat, I haven't seen anything that remotely resembles populism in any of the Republican presidential candidates or in any of the GOP Congressional leadership. Instead they preach the Gospel of Prosperity -- that the rich are rich because they deserve to be; that if we'd quit taxing them so much, the rich would lift the rest of us up with them; that if we'd quit regulating them so much, ditto.

    Your so-called populist friend Michele Bachmann wants the poor to start doing their "fair share." That renowned populist Sen. Orrin Hatch says the rich "are already doing too much." Pundits on the right -- Laura Ingraham & Larry Kudlow, ferinstance -- have been railing against Democrats for "demonizing" the rich. Right-wing pundits & politicians, meanwhile, have been accusing Democrats of "class warfare."

    Um, yeah. Class warfare is exactly what populists have in mind. The people want their share. They're sick of seeing corporate honchos who run their companies into the ground get huge golden parachutes while the people themselves, also out of work, won't even get unemployment insurance if the GOP has its way. They're sick of seeing bank CEOs get huge bonuses every year, then reading the headline that says the big banks are going to charge ordinary customers a new monthly fee for using their debit cards.

    My neighbor, who has had a hard time keeping a job to feed his young family, has been a right-wing conservative for as long as I've known him. The only "news" channel he watches is Fox. He attends a fundamentalist Christian church, & he home-schools his children because he doesn't like what the secular schools teach. He told me today he would be voting for Barack Obama in 2012. The Republicans, he said, "only care about the rich."

    Finally, my neighbor got the Republican message. And he didn't see a shred of populism there.

    The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

  2. I don't think populism has ever meant that ignorant people get to elect ignorant politicians to do whatever bizarre, misguided things they want them to do. The rest of us have to live in this country, too, and we would rather not be led by a president who denies climate change while preparing for Armageddon. That's what eliminated the Palins and the Huckabees and most of the other potential candidates from the list. The tendency for conservative pundits to talk about Republicans as though there are honorable people out there looking to do what's best for America, and take care of the middle-class and people who can't take care of themselves is pure fantasy.

    The reason the right can't find a candidate to bring its heartfelt populist message to an eagerly waiting America is because in their zeal to unseat Mr. Obama they have unleashed the dark forces of the Tea Party. The issues that face this country are complex, but complexity is anathema to the majority of voters who must be assembled in numbers win the presidency. All the careful parsing of this or that candidate's positions are useless when they're playing to a crowd who cheers for executions and would let the uninsured die. It must be hard to be a conservative these days and have to throw in your lot with these people, but conservatives should have thought of that when they were finding nice things to say about self-aggrandizing morons like Palin or folksy homophobes like Huckabee. What's that they say about lying down with dogs?

  3. "Thanks to Roger Ailes’s network, the right’s populist folk heroes have career incentives to choose superficiality over substance — the better to follow in Huckabee’s and Palin’s footsteps, and segue into a career as host of “Bachmann Overdrive” or “9-9-9 at 9.”

    One of your best articles yet. The above line is right on. I for one have been wondering whether the cat and mouse game being played lately by "The Bombastic One" is a run up to not a run, but to a book deal and speeches and reality show (Biggest Loser meets Jersey Shore). They all seem to be not auditioning to be our next President, but the next Foxlebrity (a la Bravolebrity).

    I admit to being left of center, but I really MISS the sensible, educated (dare I say elite?) old GOP guard. Now I listen to the GOP debates and it has NOTHING to do with not agreeing with them, but ALL to do with a frightening feeling of the more nonsensical the better for this party. Michelle Bachmann, a GOP representative, from mainstream suburb of Minneapolis consistently spouts utter nonsense. The last debate she doesn't argue for lower taxes, but NO taxes and meanwhile says she's going to build a 3000-mile long fence to keep our borders secure. Say what? And this will be done with a fund drive if she has drained the US Treasury of every single tax dollar? She is nuts and the idea that we think of her as legitimate is terrifying.

  4. The problem, Mr. Douthat, is that any reasonable definition of "populism" is anathema to what the GOP stands for.

    Today's GOP is a political movement that is almost entirely tied to the interests of a very narrow economic elite. This is why the GOP vehemently supports massive tax cuts for corporations and the top 2%, but opposes extending a payroll tax cut. It is why they were happy to bail out banks, but opposed to saving the middle class jobs of the auto industry. It is why they will provide tax cuts or subsidies to the rich with no budgetary offsets, while also filibustering unemployment relief, stimulus spending, and disaster aid. And it is why they have spent the last year whining about regulations that protect average Americans rather than trying to reduce the high unemployment rate.

    By contrast, populism is about making sure that our political system serves the interests of average Americans. It means favoring Main Street over Wall Street, workers over corporate CEOs, and the middle class over the moneyed elite. It means making sure that government is not oppressing the rights of average Americans, but also means supporting the rights of workers to collectively bargain for their wages, benefits, and working conditions, and ensuring that corporate America also does not oppose the rights of average Americans.

    The GOP is skillful at trying to pass off their elite economic policies as "populist" and in trying to redirect populist anger against immigrants and others. But it is hardly surprising that a political party bankrolled by the likes of the Koch Brothers has little to do with promoting real populism.

    http://www.winningprogressive.org

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Winning-Progressive/195682780442236

  5. As is quite obvious, Ronald Reagan would not be endorsed by today's Republican party. The problem for "populist" Republican politicians is that there is no common ground between what their base wants to hear and governing. You can run for a congressional seat without people worrying overmuch that one of 535 members of Congress is not taking any responsibility for actual governance. That isn't going to work when running to be the only President.

    The reality is none of the "populist" candidates ever had any realistic chance of becoming President and more than Ron Paul does. They are simply celebrities riding the media wave for a brief period. The very stuff that gets the media's attention guarantees they will flame out. But I think you underestimate Sarah Palin, she can step into the race at any point and the media will respond with another wave for her to ride. If she times it right, the momentum from that wave might even give her the nomination.

  6. As a staunch Democrat and someone who cares deeply about the future of this country, I'm greatly relieved that the Republican candidates are self-imploding. Their levels of ability (or - more realistically - the lack thereof) and their race to outdo each other in the nastiness arena are truly mind-boggling. We've never previously contended with candidates who wanted to do so *little* for the citizenry, plus the fact that they have very punitive ideologies. However; the unfortunate result is that we'll probably be faced with the specter of Mitt Romney as the Republican victor, and that will take the general election to a whole new level. My disappointment with President Obama is significant and I just hope he manages to prevail. If not, we'll be contending with a serious erosion of important policies and ideologies that define our society.

  7. What is it about ascendant majorities that seek suicide so assiduously?

    Clinton, prodded and whipped by Gingrich, left us a budget surplus, and his vice president normally would have won the presidency in a walk in 2000. But Al Gore lost to Dubya because he scared much of America to death with his regard for the spotted owl so evidently more intense than his regard for American workers. Then, after four rather disappointing years of Dubya, the 2004 election should have been the Democrats' for the taking; but no, they nominated the one man, John Kerry, who scared America even more than Al Gore did four years before. Both lost, basically by a whisker; and would have won if either had scared America even a little less.

    So, WE (the decidedly un-liberal) are now the ascendant majority, as demonstrated by the mid-terms and all the polls showing Barrack Obama somewhat less highly regarded than your typical high school truancy officer. And what do we do? We start looking for someone out on the fringes of conservative ideology when we have someone groomed and ready for coronation who will take us eighty percent of the way we need to go.

    Let's not be so ready and quick to slit our wrists, scaring Americans again and causing them to opt, narrowly, for the president, rather than for someone other than Mitt Romney, simply because the president appears to be the lesser of two available evils.

    Let's get with the program, Ross. Mitt Romney for president in 2012.

  8. I never thought about it before, but you might be right. How ironic if besides screwing up their low information viewers and the countries ability to have an honest dialogue about real issues, Fox "News" ruined the long term prospects of the GOP.

  9. If crony capitalism is an issue, Perry should not be the populist candidate. His governer's office is crony capitalism on steroids.

  10. The mainstream media has ceased to serve as a serious and objective conveyor of news and ideas. That is the main reason why Obama is in the White House. The Republicans don't need a populist. They need a serious candidate who can beat the populist in the White House.

  11. I hope a Republican runs as a populist. Republican disdain for the middle class and the American dream is so overwhelmingly obvious in their policies that the inevitable bait-and-switch from campaign to governance will far surpass the bait-and-switch Obama has performed.

    When a Republican takes office on a populist message as President, we should hope the difference between what middle America thinks are Republican values and the actual Republican values will drastically shrink. They may finally figure out that the only God worshiped by Republican politicians is the almighty dollar, and the "blessing" of owning the almighty dollar has been given to the rich.

    Of course I am probably being naive. We just elected a Democrat who won on a populist message, and he has not only managed to scoff and jeer at the working class: he has managed to fool a great many Democrats into thinking he really won't turn his back on us next time.

    Maybe we do get the government we deserve.
    Or maybe we just need the guts to vote for a third party.

  12. Douthat writes that the bull horn that Fox has handed conservatives has made it “less and less likely that a conservative populist will ever actually deserve to win. “ But what if Republican stumbling is more the result of a Party mind et that is not only (to use Krugman’s Friday words) ”fixated on a view about what’s blocking job creation that fits their prejudices and serves the interests of their wealthy backers, but bears no relationship to reality” but that further is so confined to thinking in terms of Conservative movement slogans that it lacks a grip on any policy relevant reality or any remotely viable policy. In this context, sage Republican loyalists should either regard Romney as heroically Machiavellian or switch to a Dem0cratic Party with which often gives straightforward voice to Republican prognoses and prescription of barely two decades ago.

  13. I guess the problem may be structural, since populist politicians derive their support not from having developed policies as much as from voicing the electorate's distress. And there's also the issue of skill sets; just as Mitt Romney apparently has trouble crossing over into populism, populist candidates don't seem to be authentically comfortable with policy documents (much less power point presentations). Candidate Obama in 2008 was able to combine a grassroots appeal with wonkishness, but I doubt the Republicans will take him as a model for how a candidacy that combines attributes from both ends of the spectrum can be put together.

    http://dictaobscura.wordpress.com/

  14. Looking at the crazy pool of candidates pushed upon us by the conservative "grassroot populists," I conclude that democracy doesn't work. It has only sometimes worked in the last 200 years through sheer luck and providence, or perhaps the institutionized marginalization of the hoi polloi.

    Perhaps the Chinese after suffering through the mob-rule of the Cultural Revolution are onto something.

  15. All candidates are disappointing, but not as much as the one who won last time: Barry Obama.

  16. Wow! Where to start? Gerald Ford was a conservative, and not similar to Rockefeller. Buchanan is not a genuine populist. A better description of him is that he is a bigot and anti-semite. Ron Paul and Sarah Palin should not be taken seriously by anyone. They are both batty, albeit in different ways.
    Republican politics wasn't entertainment under Reagan? "Go ahead, make my day!" "Populism" is an overworked term. As for Perry, don't underestimate him. To paraphrase Senator Roman Hruska's remark about Supreme Court Justices: We have mediocre people, so why can't we have a mediocre President?
    oldpoliticaljunkie

  17. Fox's shows are not entertaining. They are coarse, rough and tumble propaganda dressed up in National Enquirer aesthetics. They are about the twin-headed politicians from Saturn. And they are driven by massive money to manipulate "the masses" and divert them from understanding what the sources of that massive money are doing, willfully and purposefully to them. It is not about winning the White House for one of the puppets on the airwaves. It is about controlling the White House - as it is doing now - by the manipulations of an oligarchy awash in riches.

    www.jonjost.wordpress.com
    www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com

  18. Now that you have made the arguments, draw the logical conclusion, Mr.Douthat (and I know it is not an easy assignment for committed Republicans). There are no ideas of any decent sort in the GOP, your obligatory nostrums to a Reagan myth notwithstanding. Face up to it, even granting the scary possibility that some Republican candidate might prevail over Obama's fecklessness.

  19. "But by turning populism into mass entertainment, they’ve made it less and less likely that a conservative populist will ever actually deserve to win."

    And maybe that's just as well. The country's problems are so serious that putting an entertaining figure at the helm seems downright reckless. We need leadership right now and I'm concerned because there are no leaders from either party stepping forward to run for office. Everyone's in this political gig for themselves and for the riches that await them even if they just get their names splashed all over the news for a few weeks before bowing out and consoling themselves with a TV program or a book deal. They've all got gimmicks and bumper sticker shtick ready for debates and public appearances, but no one's thought ahead to governing the country and leading people out of this economic morass that we're in. It was politicians that led us into this mess and it's going to have to be politicians that begin to lead us out.

    I used to be an independent voter and prided myself on getting behind the best candidate from either party. I stopped voting Republican when they hitched their wagon to the religious right. Now I have another reason to not vote Republican. All of their candidates are exaggerated caricatures of what they think people want to see and hear. I got a big kick out of watching Romney and Perry do their Heckle and Jeckle routine at a couple of the debates. Bachmann looked like she was in a hypnotic state, and Palin always acts as if she's leading a high school pep rally. These are lightweights. The Republicans - and the rest of the country - deserve better, and should demand it of their candidates.

  20. Perhaps you're looking on the wrong side of the political divide for your populist uprising, Mr. Douthat. Faced with the prospect of a Bachman, a Romney, or a Perry as our next president, the moderate Democrats and liberals are firing up and building a fire under the president they elected. If the Republicans continue to allow this Tea Party circus to occupy center stage, there may even be moderate Republicans, heaven forbid, who will desert the ship.

  21. Amen... but don't be so quick to write off Cain's 9-9-9 plan nor his proposals for market-based solutions to our health care and social security issues!

  22. You're right Ross (finally), the Republican candidates, and the conservative populism they mimic, are full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

    If only the country will realize it and re-elect Obama!

  23. And isn't it a grand old thing that Fox is setting up for a Republican fall because who in their right minds, populist or not, would want the crazies that supposedly are the base of the GOP. And since when is collaborative government and compromise a bad thing: you can't make all the people happy all the time but you certainly shouldn't give a minority control over the rest of us regardless of their political leanings. As a gay man and navy veteran who'd love nothing more than to have a traditiaonl marriage and settle down with my partner and pay taxes I don't see why the radical wing of any party should have the only say about how we live our lives in these here united states.

  24. Ross gives me the erie feeling, we are destine for more, hope and change, as in leaderless socialism dreams. A welfare state would be great, we just cannot afford one. Why the GOP runs who they do, is mind boggling. Maybe crusty old white men fits their agenda. Bo is running neck and neck with Carter for our worst, now we are going get a dose of another four more years following this current term. Kind of elected by default type scenario.

  25. Much of what is wrong with politics does indeed get back to its media-centric connection; consultants do research and tell candidates to "say this,". networks like Fox make a point of picking (and promoting) winners and losers and radio talk show shouters say whatever they think will improve their cumes.

    The ongoing GOP Presidential Audition has a lot more in common with "American Idol" than it does the America we all grew up with....

  26. You are so right about the weird politics fomented by Fox News. The right wing backers created a monster with Fox. And now you are so correct about the right not being able to come up with a credible person to run for president. Our democracy is in shambles while the big money runs the show and collects even more money. Political discourse has become a complete farce. The Republican primaries and straw polls demonstrates how ridiculous it has become.

  27. Ross,

    Republican populist = oxymoron

    All these R candidates are big businessmen, governors of red states, or culture war bomb throwers, but to a man and woman they support the oligarchy, not the little people. They trample the little people. The TeaPary are not populists. They are nihilistic opportunists and they will soon turn self-destructive.

  28. These are some seriously silly candidates. Glad you can see that. Hope everybody can see that.

  29. Missing the Populist Moment? Yes, both the Democrats and the Republicans are missing the populist moment because they have all sold their souls to corporations and the wealthy. No one represents the interests of us "little" people.

  30. Ross, I don't usally agree with most of your columns, but you hit the nail on the head with this one. Especially about Fox news.

  31. Why in the world would Mr. Douthat declare the middle class a core constituency of the GOP? Yes, Fox News did everything it could to brainwash its middle class viewers into believing the Democrats are into stealing from them the crumbs left over after 30 years of globalization-driven shrinkage - but at some point the people, except maybe the believers in God giveth-God taketh doctrine, will realize that "we are the 99%", and their interests are different from the ones of Koch brothers... Democrats should work hard for this point in time come before the U.S.'s class structure becomes indistinguishable from Columbia.

  32. Romney calling China a currency manipulator which embraces protectionist trade policies. If that isn't Populism, I don't know what is.

  33. The crazy Republican right will probably not nominate a candidate, but they have succeeded in converting Romney, a moderate Republican, who gets credit for originated the Massachusetts health care program that was the model for what is scornfully called Obamacare to an opponent of the very program he helped develop.

    On the question of abortion, in 1994, he told a poignant story about a relative who died getting an illegal abortion, to show the depth of his support of the right to get a legal abortion. In 2001 thinking about running for governor of Utah, he says that he does not wish to be labelled as pro choice. In 2002, running for governor of Mass., he claims that this statement was not about his actual position, but rather about not wanting to be labelled. He says he will respect the states abortion laws. He wins the election psing as a pro choice candidate. In 2005, he vetoes a contraception bill and declares himself pro life, in preparation for a run at the Republican presidential nomination. In 2006, he tells an anecdote to explain his conversion, involving something said to him by Harvard stem cell scientist Douglas Melton. Melton denies it ever happened the way he told it.

    It is pretty clear that Romney is a man totally without conviction. This is something that voters will be forced to notice as the election heats up.

  34. Not so long ago obama was the "Populist movement", guess who is very unpopular?

  35. so, mr. douthat, you claim that populist rightists think that beltway republicans have lost touch. well sir, anyone who thinks that the core constituencies of the republican party are small business owners, middle class families and main street, USA is seriously out of touch. and you seem to regret that the "republican populists" can't come up with a sensible message that resonates. does it occur to you that republican populist is somewhat of an oxymoron? you need better arguements or else give in and admit that you're turning liberal.

  36. Ross - You miss the obvious. The reason why conservative/right wing politicians can't get national traction is because they are inarticulate short term thinkers. They don't communicate well because they haven't given serious thought to how one goes about solving the complicated problems our aging capitalist system faces today. They're solutions, when rarely enunciated, are pithy and old school. They look back, never forward. I was enamored with Ayn Rand as a high school junior and then embarrassed by the thought just a few years later. It's a rare conservative who can fool the masses, as Reagan did. I don't see anyone on the Republican stage with Reagan's bravado or his ability/willingness to tell the big lie with complete sincerity. If they can't take themselves seriously why should we.

  37. "This is the irony of Fox’s impact on Republican politics. In a sense, the network’s shows have given right-wing populism a larger megaphone than it’s ever had before. But by turning populism into mass entertainment, they’ve made it less and less likely that a conservative populist will ever actually deserve to win."

    I don't usually agree with you, but this final point should be made into a brass plaque and attached to every podium that these clowns speak from between now and the 2012 election.

  38. The reason none of these "populists" will never win a general election is not because of their individual deficiencies but because of the long-proven failure of the philosophies they espouse. Ever since Ronald Reagan took office, America has seen the gap between rich and poor widen enormously as the middle class dwindled into the embattled, insecure remnant it has become. We are very close to totally becoming a second-world or even third-world country with corporate interests at the very top, thoroughly integrated into the government - unfortunately, both Clinton and Obama just made this worse by always taking to the "center" (i.e. the far right) when the going got tough.

    If any of the Republicans win at all, it will be because a majority of people choose to stay home on election day due to their disillusionment with the political process. The average human being, both in America and on planet earth in general, is basically a progressive. There just aren't any genuine progressives running for office, so it is hard to muster the energy to vote.

    Mr. Douthat, if and when a true fighting progressive in the mold of FDR or Philip Burton launches a serious run for president in the next decade, you and your ilk will finally be shown the door - posthaste.

  39. One hates to get too snarky in the face of an argument like this or to waste too many brain cells on it, but the fundamental flaw in this argument is simply that in fact the populist wing of the republican party has in large part gotten exactly what it wanted. For example what the populists wanted was demagoguery on immigration. To the very extent that the Republican populists find a standard bearer who mirrors them in every way, they will find someone who is incapable of taking advantage of this moment. The critique (targeting crony capitalism and promiscuous military intervention) that Douthat discerns running from Buchanan to Ron Paul misses out on half of the populism (unease about race and gender boarding on or crossing the line over to outright racism, sexism and homophobia, pragmatism disguising anti-intellectualism, willingness to impose certain religious norms globally), which is why contrary to Douthat's claim, the populists didn't get tired of Palin and didn't quit enjoying what Bachman said once they paid attention. They liked what they heard. Its just others who couldn't stomach that half.

  40. The only person closest to a conservative populist would be Ron Paul, which no one in the media apparently cares to talk about for some odd reason. Ron Paul is pretty much responsible for igniting the Tea Party movement and has legitimate convictions that aim to address authentic conservative principles, unlike the faux- conservative money-grubbers that are Palin, Bachmann and friends.

    Yet the conservative populist movement is less constructive and is more destructive; intent on tearing down the fabric of our government, which won't do anything to address our ailing problems. Conservatives today have more in common with anarchists than they do with the Republicanism championed by our nation's Founding Fathers. They would rather repeal nearly every progressive piece of legislation signed into law in the last century and have an "every man for himself" philosophy that makes little sense. Moreover they don't seem to have many cogent, intelligent ideas on how to lead our nation out of this economic malaise. Why anyone continues to vote Republican today is beyond me.

  41. Douthat, pray, what do you have against Mitt Romney? Not conservative enough for you? Surely you don't mean to suggest that Ms Palin would be more representative of conservatism, do you?
    Not that I care, mind you!

  42. I for one was dissappointed that John Huntsman's candidacy did not gain more traction. I'm not sure why? Clearly his intellect is superior to Romney's, has had business and political success, and he is not one of "the crazy crowd".

  43. I don't see how you can uncritically accept any of these crazy Republicans who want to be president. You ignore their beliefs and only talk of the horse race. Do you not believe in science? Is the Earth really only 6000 yrs old? Do you want fewer regulations on cantaloupe growers? Do you think any of the Repubs have any idea that compromise is part of governing? Do you want to abolish the Dept of Education? How can someone who doesn't believe in government run it? Don't dignify them by calling them populists, they are crazy religious extremists who reject the 21st century much less the 20th. How can you and any serious Republican not be ashamed of their hijacked party?

  44. A display of intelligence might help a little. The Times this morning had a front page story about the destruction of ecologically vital trees. That is what is really happening in our world. The Republican candidates, minus Huntsman, would simply deny that evidence. As they posture and parrot the phrases created for them by their monied masters, climate change does occur. The world is round. Evolution is the basis for much of modern science. Scary, of course, that one of these mind-challenged persons might actually become President. Wasn't the little Yalie enough?

  45. The problem, I think, is that "conservative populist" is a contradiction in terms. You can't favor tax breaks for the rich, reductions in Social Security and Medicare, and fiscal austerity in the midst of a recession without hurting all but the wealthiest voters. So the folks who try are -- sorry to be blunt -- generally pretty stupid, and end up tripping all over themselves, like Bachmann, Palin, and Perry.

    Sadly, our more intelligent conservatives are either rejected out of hand by the Tea Party types, or are forced to compromise themselves so badly with no tax pledges and other forms of idiocy that they will find it difficult to govern.

  46. I found this a very interesting analysis. And very discouraging. This is not a time for the populist moment to be missed.

  47. Is this life imitating art? You can't have your cake and not eat it too!

  48. "But by turning populism into mass entertainment, they’ve [Fox] made it less and less likely that a conservative populist will ever actually deserve to win."

    That is because Fox is in love with "gigs"...one gig or another...and the Republicans have fallen for these gigs. They want a better one, a Populist One, and the truth is that The People are serious; they are tired of gigs.

    There is one thing the Republicans haven't tried yet: Being Honest.

  49. What the GOP needs isn't a populist to rally around. It needs is an openly moderate candidate to inject some sanity back into the party.

  50. The GOP is reaping what it sowed when it got in bed with Fox, Limbaugh, et al. They wanted crazy, angry people who couldn't think straight and that's what they have on their hands now. And its just what they deserve for debasing governing by making it a blood sport for entertainment purposes. The sooner the country is rid of them the better. We need governing, not ratings.

  51. It is certainly true that there is no true populist candidate for President.

    Why is that?  Well, maybe we should try to define what are truly "Populist" policies, and see if there are any candidates which support most of them.

    A clear majority of the population favor the following policies, which, by definition, makes them "populist positions":

    - Less military intervention and spending
    - A Public Option
    - Medicare and SS to stay as they are
    - Revise our Trade Policies to balance Trade
    - Stop Wall Street Banks from running our Government
    - Stop the downward housing spiral
    - Bring back Jobs
    - Sunset Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy

    Yes, Ron Paul's position on the gold standard would be a deflationary disaster.

    But many of the positions embraced by the "Washington Consensus" of both parties, are clearly against the wishes and interests of the populace.

    "Free Trade"?  Give me a break.  Those countries with a trade surplus, are practicing anything BUT free trade.  No other nation would permit our level of Unemployment to coexist with a trade deficit. NONE.  "Protectionism" - "SCARE" "SCARE".  How about preventing China from totally destroying our manufacturing base?  Adjusted for population, we have 10% fewer workers than in 2000.  10% fewer taxpayers!  Worried about the deficit?  Don't you think that is a factor?

    Our Government is under total control of multinational corporations and international banks, with near total cooperation of both parties, and no regard for the welfare of the People of the United States.

    The disgust and anger at the lack of justice and bailouts for the banks, exemplified by the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters, is widely shared by the populace.  However, it is politically incorrect among the media, to acknowledge and discuss that fact, or the plethora of bankers in the Obama administration.

    Separating the People into "populists", "leftists", and "centrists", is a way to divide and weaken the People, and Our Nation.

  52. The Populist Movement is happening now--Occupy Wall St., Occupy Together, etc. Why are you not "on it?" This is attracting conservatives, liberals, libertarians, etc., and has spontaneously spread across the country--even Boise, ID, which is 2 1/2 hours from where I live, had 150 people show up yesterday for their "Occupy" planning even, which will start on Wednesday. I guarantee it will be well attended for as long as it takes to for our system to right itself.

    Here are some quotes from FDR's first 2 inaugural addresses that clarify what is happening now:

    "This is more than a political campaign; it is a...crusade to restore America to its own people."

    "I do not believe...a few powerful interests should be permitted to make industrial cannon fodder of the lives of half of the population of the United States.”

    " The economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain about is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power."

    And of course, since he was proposing the overthrow of a (broken) system, the following reassurance: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

    Please get ahead of this story, Mr. Douthat.

  53. It is amazing to me, that the idea, the GOP, will accept an insurgent candidate, even exists. History tells us the Democratic Party is less predictable and the GOP totally predictable.

    In 1960, the GOP nominated a sitting Vice President, while the Democrats picked an inexperienced Senator over the Senate majority leader.

    In 1968, the GOP nominated an ex-Vice President, and if he was not assassinated would have picked another inexperienced Senator.

    In 1976, the GOP nominated a sitting flawed President, while the Democrats picked an insurgent from Georgia.

    In 1980, the GOP nominated a two-term governor of the largest state and a three-time presidential candidate. The mythology of Reagan being anything more than a conservative pragmatist does not withstand the lessons of history.

    In 1988, the GOP nominated a sitting Vice President, while the Democrats picked a little known governor of one of the most liberal states.

    In 1992, the GOP nominated an unpopular "tax treason" sitting president, while the Democrats nominated a morally flawed and once defeated governor of a small state.

    In 1996, the GOP nominated it's Senate leader.

    In 2000, the GOP nominated a two term governor of the second largest state Texas.

    In 2008, the GOP nominated the closest contender in the 2000 primaries. The Democrats picked an inexperienced Senator over an experienced Senator.

    Ergo, why should anyone be surprised that Mitt Romney will be the 2012 GOP nominee?

    As Mark Twain said, "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme".

  54. Odd - Douthat's turning into a more interesting read than Brooks. He seems to have his finger on the Republican patient, Brooks' more on his own.

  55. It's a very strange brand of populism, Ross, because if voters elect any of these potential GOP candidates, the average person is going to be worse off financially. Wherever you are on the spectrum of GOP economic policies, they only strengthen the plutocracy that's emerging in this country at the expense of the lower and middle income working classes. But I'll grant you that this has never stopped people from voting Republican and against their own self-interest.

  56. I saw you on Bill Maher and thought, "Not what I expected" given that I'm a left, left liberal Democrat. I was impressed by what you said on TV and I'm impressed by what you said here. On the other hand, as a left, left liberal, I hope the crazies do take over. Gives a better chance to Obama in 2012...not that I'm entirely enthusiastic about the centrist policies of that Republican Obama.

  57. Sooner or later the Republicans have to ask themselves how they got into this position. When I talk to conservatives, they don't raise any of the points I see in the thoughtful column about populism above. Instead, I hear their claims about anti-abortion; sinful homosexuals; terrifying Muslims; endless tedious conspiracy theories by Birthers; mythical invasions across our southern border; a president which they appear to believe has the destruction of America as his primary goal. I would love it if they would talk about preserving the middle class; instead, they explain to me why proposals which might someday raise taxes on multi-millionaires are causing our out-of-control inflation (???). The Republican base needs a populist, absolutely, so does the Democratic base. But the Republican base has gone tilting at windmills, distracting themselves so completely from their own fundamental interests that they can literally in one voice call for even more budget cuts, and simultaneously express their anger over the fact that their childrens' school district is suddenly short dozens of teachers, and their kids are sitting in classes with 40 other children. What are we to make of a Republican base which cannot connect these simple dots? If leadership counts, then Conservative and Republican leaders (you know who you are) have taught their base to ignore their own populist interests, in favor of a very un-American intolerance of anyone the least bit different from themselves.

  58. The author of this piece should probably look up the word "populist." People like Palin, Bachmann, and Perry are not populists. They might use that word for propaganda purposes, but they are - just like the 'establishment' Republicans - firmly Corporatist. The reason they aren't attracting 'populist' votes is that's not what they are.

    For Republicans, 'populist' is just a code word for 'wealthy white people.' I guess in that sense all the candidates discussed are 'populists' after all.

  59. Ross, there's another theory you might consider: That the politicians who stump for populist causes are doing so for reasons of pure, crass self-interest, and they don't really believe in the cause at all.

  60. Well surely there is a populist who, like the right-wingers, hates government yet wants to be a part of it. Hello?

  61. Great column, Mr. Douthat, very analytically sound and funny to boot. I think Ms. Bachmann should actually sign up Ted Turner for that show, so it could be the "Bachmann-Turner Overdrive".

    But while you hint at the problem with the 'conservative populist' movement, I think I'll come right out and say it, if the moderator will let me. Every major leader for that group, and most of its constituent members, simply aren't very bright. Their policies are flawed because they don't know how to deal with reality too well. They usually don't believe in science (which is remarkable addled for the 21st century).

    So it's good that their political leaders are falling by the wayside one by one, because they'd probably be a disaster as president. But if that leaves Mitt Romney as the G.O.P. candidate, it's a lock for President Obama, because half of the party either doesn't like him or loathes his religion.

    So thanks for the heartening analysis, I sure do hope the nation doesn't wind up getting run by reality-deprived C-students again.

  62. The Republicans can't claim the populist mantle when their platform and ideas are unpopular.

    Tax cuts for the rich don't create jobs.

    Climate change is rising to smack us in the face and blow our houses down.

    Women are not going back to the days when getting an abortion was illegal, and we need Planned Parenthood, especially in this economy.

    We're not repealing Obamacare if we aren't replacing it with a program that is even better at extending affordable health care to all Americans.

    Practically everyone wants Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security strengthened or not changed at all.

    Gays aren't going back into the closet in the military. Those days are history.

    No more surges in Iraq in Afghanistan. Our troops are coming home. We're not in the mood to unilaterally invade Iran or any other Middle Eastern country. Besides, Obama proved you can target the terrorists far more cheaply and effectively with precision attacks and by getting other countries involved.

    Cheney said deficits don't matter. Republicans took that to heart. They lost that war a long time ago, and their posturing now is smarmy and disingenuous.

    We need comprehensive immigration reform beyond closing the borders and deporting people. The DREAM Act is a start.

    House Republicans campaigned on jobs bill. The President is fighting for passage of the American Jobs Act. So, Republicans, where's the beef?

    Please, Douthat, tell me what the populist Republican agenda is. I would really like to know because, to many of us, their agenda is divorced from real people. These "real Americans" of Tea Party cannot pick a candidate because no one wants to articulate what their really base wants and sell it to broader American populace.

    Basically, there is no there there with the Republican Party. You seem like a smart kid, Ross. It's time you and the rest of your conservative friends grew up.

    The GOP has become the Get Obama Party. That's their only agenda.

  63. Even on the left, smart populist politicians usually get co-opted by the money guys pretty early. (e.g. Obama.) The few that don't (e.g., Howard Dean)will be destroyed by the media (for something as unimportant as talking too loudly in Dean's case.) The one populist cause that the left and the right might both agree on---the outsourcing of American jobs and "free trade" agreements with polluting dictatorships--- is consistently dismissed (as you just did in regard to Pat Buchanan.) Though as far to the left as Buchanan is to the right, I would vote for him because he's the only politician I know of who is willing to speak the truth about the folly of foreign wars, Israel, and "free" trade.

  64. I read your statement that the 'Beltway Republicans have lost touch with their core consituiencies; small business owners, middle class families and Main St" and about fell off my chair laughing. When sir, was that EVER who the Republicans-Beltway or otherwise- had as their core? Not unless the 'small businesses' you refer to are business so named for taxing purposes because they have less than 100 owners despite making millions/billions, and not unless the middle class families you refer to are the trust fund brats in their first mini mansions who must wait til they turn 25 to get the bulk of their non-taxed Perpetual Estate Inheritance. and as far as Main St? The Republicans have had Main St U.S.A very clearly on their hit list for at least a decade! Consider right now the myriad bills being put forth that will soak the elderly for an additional $6k a yr for their medical-and thats if they even end up still covered since Republicans are doing their level best to strip healthcare away from ALL of us.And SS. Consider hundreds of thousands of 'uncreated' jobs that decimated small communities and rendered mom and pops customerless since the jobless do not buy anything but basics. And add to the near impossibility of the Main St vendor getting loans now, who are having their credit lines canceled or curtailed-all at behest of the Republican's fav people-big banksters. Republicans are pushing to gut all regs that might get the financial markets under control, wont make them own their own mess. They also want to food safety gutted and polluters given a free ride, along with oil comapnies and non farm farmers,but inisist that people wiped out by nature(you know, those middle class main street families) should 'dig out on their own, that families who are struggling to make it with only 1 job for every 4 lookers(again, those middle classers)can do with less, but God forbid the rich pay a dime more.
    But at least you admit Faux News is nothing more than a rightwing megaphone!

  65. Populism is ingrained in America’s psyche. But populism -- be it a manifestation of the left or the right -- must find a balance between idealism and practicality. As demonstrated by the so-called conservative populists in the among current GOP candidates, that is not easy to do.

    The dilemma of conservative populists is that they must try to reconcile two opposites. Tapping into the fear and rage of Middle America will be very difficult while they continue pandering to America’s Oligarchs.

    The term populist suggests a broad appeal to the ‘hoi polloi’ and the common man -- today’s ‘Joe Sixpack’. When a populist can find the right balance (as Andrew Jackson did) s/he can marshal powerful support.

    However, while that can be a powerful political weapon, it is blunt.

    Some actions that may satisfy an emotional populist need—such as a desire to attack the natural alliance between Wall Street and the Oligarchs -- can backfire … as when Jackson’s abolition of the National Bank (the predecessor to the Fed) ultimately led to a financial collapse and Depression.

    Clearly, a populist rage is simmering in the U.S. but the GOP (happily) seems to be making the worst of it. With help from Fox News, they’ve taken a powerful political sentiment and turned it into performance art.

    Populism is a natural tool of the Left. It’s unfortunate that so many Democrats are too busy trying to mimic Republicans to explore the potential it holds to rally support against the natural enemies of America’s common man. Especially since, today, the definition of ‘common man’ would include the bottom 90% of the population.

  66. This piece is almost laughable. Douthat recognizes that people are upset with the Wall Street-Washington axis, but fails to mention that the real populists were on the streets (and apparently a bridge) as his fingers were hitting the computer key board. Had he done so he would have been forced to acknowledge that no GOP presidential candidate could hope to tap into the real anger in this country because their party protects Wall Street interests at all costs. Even Obama fits that mold. That giant sucking sound a different Ross mentioned in 1992 is now the sound of our savings being vacuumed by the financial industry. A real populist would speak for the people who are protesting the legalization of stealing.

  67. If Ross Douthat understood that the "Tea Party" was almost entirely manufactured by FOX News and Dick Armey and was basically nothing more than a marketing rebranding of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, he'd be less confused about where all the "populism" went.

    It was never there. This wasn't grass roots, it was astroturf.

  68. Right wing populism is a peasant rebellion paid for and scripted by the robber barons.

    - Wonks Anonymous

  69. The "unlovability" of Romney is probably not a deficiency of his character or soul. First, Harvard Law School and Business School is not conducive to nurturing that aspect of character, hence Romney's political gaff in quickly resorting to strict legalism in equating corporations to people.

    But what most likely cloaks Romney's "lovability" is his need to keep his Mormonism out of scope. Do Mormons close to Romney perceive him as "unlovable"? It may very well be that this side of his personality is be with held from public display because it is intimately interwoven with his religious beliefs. And he knows their is deep seated bias against Mormons among a significant segment of the US population and his own party.

  70. Linking any of the Republicans mentioned--Cain, Palin, Perry, Bachman,and the others--to some sort of "populist" uprising is an inaccurate characterization, one that voters seem to be able to unravel pretty quickly.

    Every voter is a "populist" and most voters understand, I think, that a "populist" politician is not one who is cemented to the agendas of rich elites and corporatist lobbies.

    Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, as far as I can tell, are no more populist than Commodore Vanderbilt or J. Pierpont Morgan. They just have adapted the "populist" vernacular as their own, and that, I am afraid, is why the Republican version of "populism" is a non-starter. They just think the rest of us are dummies because we see them caress their guns and hear them talk about getting ugly with a Fed President, and assume that that takes care of the forgotten voter. Actually, we are able to understand what they are promoting and what agendas they intend to advance, after, of course, they advance their first agenda, themselves.

  71. While I agree with all you've written Ross, there is so much more that the republican candidates are missing......and first and foremost is policy that will appeal to the majority of our population.

    The republican's plan to dice & destroy our social programs is unacceptable to almost everyone.....especially when nothing of value is offered to replace them. Middle America has always struggled, and that light at the end of the tunnel, Social Security & Medicare, will be replaced with an old age fraught with no healthcare or pension.....who will want to look forward to that?

    Equally troublesome is the connection between the GOP and their need to protect the very wealthy and big business.....we all know that there has always been a strong connection there, but it's been at the expense of everyday Americans who look to their representatives to legislate for them, not a faceless corporation.

    The very idea that those we elect should look out for our welfare is what is missing in the republican party.....we grow tired of hearing that nonsense about being lazy or wanting our government to provide for us.....if you can't do anything for me, my family or our country, then why in the world should I vote for you?

  72. For decades, our nation’s plutocrats have owned the Republican Party. In recent years, plutocrats have made inroads into gaining powerful influence, if not yet outright control, over the Democratic Party. The transition of America from democracy to plutocracy has been the inevitable consequence of the rise of importance of money in politics, the failure of campaign finance laws, and the growing monopolization of our country’s wealth by fewer and fewer people. We have watched as the plutocrats have used government to enact economic and trade policies that have allowed them to accumulate more and more wealth while crushing the aspirations of the poor and middle class. We now see Republican lawmakers working to affirm American plutocracy by enacting laws designed to make it increasingly difficult for our poorest citizens to vote.

    Given the reality of American economic life, the plutocrats must be concerned about the rise of populist movements. It is not surprising, therefore, that they have co-opted the Tea Party movement to direct its legitimate anger away from the plutocrats and onto government and so-called social value issues. The plutocrats know that they must keep populist movements divided. Imagine, for example, if the protesters in the current Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were joined by the tens of thousands of Tea Partiers who were so eager to march on Washington. Imagine if the conservative populists could see that the real threat to their future comes not from gay marriages but from the unprosecuted crimes of Wall Street. What is missing from your essay is an understanding that populists of the left and the right can and must work together to combat our most important domestic crisis – the vast growth in economic inequality that has beset American life over the past three decades.

    “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

    Louis D. Brandeis

  73. Ross Douthat, where is your notice of an electable Republican?? I see no mention of the most commonsensical Gary Johnson; and noting his experience and qualities, I think this is inexcusable.

    Of course, none of the current herd has a prayer vs. Obama, but Gary Johnson, with his backing of FairTax (H.R. 25 & S. 13), is the man whose time has come. As a two-term Governor of New Mexico, he proved himself up to the job.

  74. I believe we tried "conservative populism" Ross and our current predicament lies in Obama's failure to properly assess its destruction.
    Yes "conservative populism" gave us a deregulated housing system so that every little person could buy a home with zero down, a purely selfless dream of the people loving GOP. "Conservative Populism" does not fall from the tounges of anyone but you and Frank Luntz.

  75. It's hard to know exactly what conservative populism is. All Congressional Republicans (House and Senate) have shown by their actions in the last couple of years that they have one agenda only: protecting the interests of the extremely wealthy. We know those who rail against the government and yet are on food stamps, receive social security, unemployment benefits, etc., etc. Perhaps it is the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his many contradictions -- they live on in the current mind of the American conservative. I find it interesting that the two least radical candidates are both Mormon, and Jon Huntsman is too moderate to make it through the primaries. Mitt Romney will win the nomination, and then Pres. Obama will barely squeak through a re-election.

  76. People on this board say that all the candidates in the GOP race are bought, are friends of crony capitalism/FOX News. This ignores Ron Paul's anti-bailout, grassroots campaign. FOX News strongly dislikes Paul (because he bucks at the plutocracy):

    http://www.dawnoftheweak.com/2011/09/fox-news-google-debate-9222011.html

    @Douhat: Paul argues for sound money, not necessarily sound money based on the gold standard.

  77. Conservative populism, with ideology but no pragmatism, is doomed to failure because it isn't populism but an appeal to the small percentage of the population who represent extreme (as in extremely useless) simplistic opinions on complex issues. The tea party is failure in the making, and all those Republican candidates attempting to appeal to this segment of conservatives don't deserve the nomination. They have become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Eclectic Pragmatist — http://eclectic-pragmatist.tumblr.com/

  78. I would say the reason there is no serious right wing populist candidate is simply because right wing populist policy is extreme, lacking utterly in any serious intellectual analysis and aimed solely at a bizarre marriage of the rabid, uneducated and frightened masses to the wealthy, condescending and sneering financiers and businessmen. How on earth do you expect a serious candidate to come out of this? Just how far to the right can the Republicans go? They are already out there like Wyle E. Coyote, thrashing manically in mid-air desperately trying not to look down and realize their beliefs are based on nothing but desperate wishful thinking.

  79. Perhaps the problem is with right wing ideology itself. It is so full of internal logical contradictions that any serious candidate who wants to appeal to the middle is going to disenfranchise a large number of ignorant people who have not really thought carefully about their policy preferences.

    Also, shame on you for using the term "lumber" in regards to Christie. We know you were referring to his weight. Read your colleague Frank Bruni's column for elaboration.

  80. Such a shame that the "populist" movement is missing its moment. Maybe they should return to their real roots to find a candidate. How about running one of the Koch brothers?

  81. Huntsman is the only one of the bunch who has spoken with an iota of intelligence, yet the media have locked him in a closet.

  82. It's because they are bought and paid for.

    Politics is all about the money/ melding into power and influence.

    This says a lot about modern America; that so many ignore the truths which are evident all around us daily, as we listen to the misguided lies of the right-teas and all there talking points.

    We are increasingly, disgustingly "un-American".

  83. Mr Douthat is to be congratulated for writing this column. By using his policy position to illuminated the difficulties of a partisan political party that he would normally support, adds significant creditability to his thesis. Op Ed columns in this paper must challenge this generally informed and curious audience with their privilege insight into the below the surface workings of the Washington scene, both political policy wise. Merely repeating well known ideology is not what we expect for our subscription money. Rather, we expect Op Ed columnists, and especially those different than the normal on these pages, to challenge us with insights less easily found.

    Mr. Douthat needs encouragement and Mr. David Brooks especially should take note of this responsibility

  84. So the Republicans are becoming a lot more like Democrats in their internal party disputes. Democrats recently cannot seem to agree amongst themselves on most issues and therefore have a difficult time passing legislation. The problems were so bad two years ago that for six months Obama was unable to get enough Democrat votes to pass a health care law. He even tried to appeal to Republicans for their votes. More recently we have heard about problems with Blue Dog Democrats. Republicans have problems with tea party adherents. But all of these legislators were elected by their districts and none of the news media is accusing anyone of not following the wishes of the majority that elected them. Whatever happens with the presidential election, it must be novel to see legislators actually voting as they said they would.

  85. This article is true, but Ross is much too kind to both the populist candidates and their supporters. It is abundantly obviously that the President and many democratic congressman are more than willing to seriously address the dire economic problems and compromise. The party of "No" is seriously damaging the country. If the media was not so mistakenly wedded to the false god of equivalence, this would become clearer to the masses.

  86. Dumb and dumber is the way the Repub-neo-tea-CONS Presidential candidates look and sound like. This really started on the AM radio dials and found its way to Sarah and now it is the standard. They all look pretty but once they open their mouths it just ugly and dumb ... dumber

  87. Considering the state of the state, I pity the fool who gets elected president.

  88. Anoint Charlie Koch

  89. One thing you gotta give the GOP credit for. It has created a lot of jobs -- on campaign committees. Maybe even a few for pundits commenting on the contenders.

  90. Don't forget the impact Mr. Limbaugh has had on brain manipulation.

  91. The inherent contradiction in Republican populism that ever dooms it to failure is the fact that it is bankrolled by the rich (eg, Koch brothers, Murdoch) whose ultimate interests are far from populist. So long as Republican populism is a motley package of tax breaks for the wealthy and drilling rights for oil companies, coated with anti-immigrant rhetoric to appeal to the economically suffering lower middle class, this brand of politics will always be a mongrel that will never win first in show. I think this is the Fox effect you note, and then some.

  92. Mr. Douthat has given me something I did not expect to receive, a reason to thank Roger Ailes and Fox News for a contribution to the public weal. He claims that the GOP and the country need "a better class" of right wing populists. However, it would appear that the GOP already has the pick of this year's litter. (I am pretty sure that the hard core will find Mr. Christie, (should he run,) to be far too liberal. What needs to be understood is that right populism is on a spectrum that descends through Poujade and LePen to The Other Guy. Let us be happy the current crew in America is both where it is, and self-destructing.

  93. When pick-up truck driving conservative Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts he turned around and kicked the Tea Party in the teeth (at least to hear them tell it). Let's hope that a certain conservative (who's sometimes been on the right side of every issue - and on the wrong one, too) and whose initials are M.R. might, if elected as he almost certainly will be, will do the same.

  94. Poor, poor conservative diehards! I feel for them, truly. They elect those jokers but ever get shafted. A return to the blissful world of the 1890s? A final merging of church and state? An end to abortion? Homosexuals firmly back in the closet? Women in the kitchen? Nah, none of that's gonna happen. If the Mitt KOs Barack it'll be a government of the corporations for the corporations. Heck, they're people too, friend.

  95. Republican populism in Wisconsin: eliminate unions and early voting.

    Republican populism in North Carolina: eliminate integration in schools.

    Republican populism in Florida: eliminate unemployment insurance by testing the poor for drugs.

    Republican populism in Michigan: eliminate local control by installing total-power city managers.

    Republican populism in Kansas, Ohio, and a dozen other states: eliminate Planned Parenthood and criminalize abortion and birth control.

    Republican populism wherever they control legislatures: eliminate voting for the old, the poor, the sick, the non-white, by re-instituting different varieties of the poll tax.

    Republican populism in Washington, DC: eliminate the very notion of governnance by holding the country hostage at every opportunity and by delegitmizing the President.

    As Mr. Douthat demonstrates (yet again), the two best protection against criminal stupidity (or cynical deceit) are the First Amendment, and a contract to write for a newspaper.

  96. It makes no difference who the GOP candidate will be. Obama has lost his support among those who elected him when he decided to not honor their needs and instead made policy that reflected the thoughts of those who voted against him.

    The only thing that matters now is which far-right radical the GOP nominates, and how will he govern (yes, he...sorry Sarah and Michelle) while appeasing the hypocrites that chose him.

    That's right...hypocrites. How else can you describe people who complain "keep your government hands off my Medicare" and then elect congressmen who plan to defund it? Or those who believe if someone decides to forego health insurance should die if they get sick, but are against a public health option? Or those who despise the bank bailouts, but are also against regulations to avoid future bank fiascos? Or those who are against the offshoring of our jobs and industries, yet blindly back corporations that do this in the name of the free market? Or those who want to shift responsiblilites from the federal level to the states, even though most states are already over budget, cutting services and public employees, and begging Washington for aid?

    2012 will be a wake-up call for us all.

  97. Republicans masquerading as populists has worked in fooling most in-over-their-heads mortgage-holders into believing they're landed-gentry for 30 years now.

  98. Modern conservative "populism" is not so different from the populism of the late 18th, early 19th century.

    Original populism suffered and failed and from a lack of an educated base, a fault that led to anti-Semitism and nativism and incompetent leaders and a lack of financing.

    Modern conservative populism is a reactionary, anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti-government movement with theocratic overtones. Now, as then, its appeal nationally is mostly white, regional, rural and suburban

    The major difference between the original and current conservative populism is the major financing of conservative populism by financial interests hoping to profit from anti-government sentiment, fear and resentment.

    Just as changing demographics and current events doomed the original populism to temporal failure (many of its progressive ideas did become laws much later...), I suspect today's conservative populism is also doomed; but as its goals are reactionary and regressive, its legacy will be one of failure.

    “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.

    There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are...a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

  99. Blah, blah, blah, "lumbering", "gimmicks", etc. Another feeble attempt to stop the tsunami about to topple both the Democrat and Republican crony approach to government. You just don't get it, Douthat, do you? An empty can of Coke will defeat Obama in 2012, because at least you'll get a nickel back. With black full employment now less than 50%, even his last core group has gotten it.

    The Senate is going down, along with free-spending Republicans, which makes the Presidential race moot. Please keep up this drivel about how stupid the opposition is. It only shows your own ignorance, and leaves the door open for the clean sweep coming. Limit centralized government and reduce spending are the only two items that matter now. Your only hope is to marginalize the Tea Party, and you can't even do that.

  100. What is really needed is a candidate of any party who actually cares about the plight of ordinary Americans. And one that actually lives up to his (or her?) campaign rhetoric. Perhaps if the Republican candidate wins, (s)he will turn out to be a closet democrat -- to balance out the closet republican that's currently serving.

    http://homelessonwheels.wordpress.com

  101. Let's set a few things straight.

    Sarah Palin's act did not grow "tiresome". She chose to take herself out of the public eye on the advice of handlers wiser than herself after a tell all biography came out exposing things not explainable when running for president in a party of supposedly squeaky clean moralizers. Otherise she would still be out there saying the same 'tiresome' stuff.

    Donald Trump was a one issue candidate who was punked by the president when he went too far out on a limb with the birth certificate issue and had it sawed off when the president finally came up with the proof.

    No sane person will miss either one of these people.

  102. I believe that only a very small percentage of Americans are actually intelligent enough to understand what has gone wrong in America for the last 45 years. I was a senior in high school when the build up of the Cold War started in my backyard. They put in the most missiles(Minuteman I) of any county in the country, Pondera County. I was living in Conrad, Montana, at the time. I, also, did conduct a fall out shelter census in a neighboring town for the government. Only one person in that town actually had a fall out shelter. This military buildup started America on a path of borrowing money to fund a huge military agenda that would lead to deception and an ignorance of world politics, cultural, and religious ideologies and a huge deficit. Then, when Nixon wanted a single payer health care system, the American Medical Association balked. I believe that was the beginning of the end as the automobile and unhealthy food contributed to an unhealthy population that has wanted free healthcare. In Switzerland, everyone has it and pays per person. Your premiums are determined by your income. In America, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans, Military Personnel, Federal Government Employees all want basically free healthcare along with unions. Many workers in America have no health insurance because they can't afford to because they are paying for all of the other people's health care costs in the above mentioned groups when many could afford to pay from $400- $1000 per month for a single or family policy, if all Americans were paying their own healthcare costs. Of course, if Americans were healthy, 90% of all doctors would be jobless as one of the 55 year old doctors in my family reminded me 30 years ago when I asked him. Our economic problems are too real for most politicians and Americans to face as healthcare costs have driven jobs overseas for the last 25 years and people are dumbstruck. Americans want someone to save them from themselves!

  103. Vote for blind moral certainty, not your economic self-interest - that is the GOP populist mantra.

  104. It would seem to me that a better word for these candidates is "fundamentalism" rather than populism. There is an agenda to be met and a rigid mindset for getting there that is about beliefs rather than the practicalities of the governance of the American people.

  105. suggesting that letting the GOP nomination process settle for Romney improves their chances of winning the white house ignores the real likelihood that christian evangelicals will not be able to overcome their aversion to mormonism long enough to actually vote for him.

  106. Why does this author resort to snarky Mo Dowd comments like Christie "lumbering" into the race?

  107. Great observations Mr. Douthat! I'm hardly Republican but the cast of characters who've paraded across the public sphere as populist Republicans is demonstratably lame-brained. They sound good until someone with a modicum of brains begins to question them leading one to gasp and say, "Oh, my God!"

  108. Excellent article, Ross. I hesitate to describe it as "Fair & Balanced" (lest you be associated with the intellectual wrecking crew at Fox News), so how about "Reasoned and Reputable Journalism"?

  109. The math's not that hard. About a third self-identify as Democrats, fewer than that as Republicans, and the rest are independents. The winner in 2012 will be the major party candidate who figures out first, best and most consistently that it's the *independents* who hold the decision in their hands.

    Right now, the GOP is fiddling around with its perennial ideological purity tests, while opportunities to look constructive and appeal to independents are slipping away. When the field sorts itself out and the sprint to the center begins, let's hope that there's still sufficient time for the GOP nominee to make the trek. Obama clearly deserves to lose. Can the GOP help him get what he's earned?

  110. I agree with the posters who said that "conservative populist" is a contradiction, but I know what Douthat is saying. Douthat actually makes a good deal of sense in this column, esp. for a Republican. Dang, I find it hard to say that. Douthat and Frum are some of the last grown ups commenting from inside the GOP. Too bad so many sensible conservatives at local and state levels can't reclaim their party from the Tea Partiers. America would actually be better with two sensible parties arguing over substance instead of ephemera.

  111. Duh..............."populism" and "Republicans" in the same sentence? Not very likely!! At least since the mid 1800's....you remember...the tall guy from Illinois...scraggly beard, taller hat, ACTUAL middle-
    America philosophy???
    Anyone who thinks ANY of the modern-day R's could be called D "populist" is as delusional as....well, as R.D.----------------probably a nice guy, with whom you'd enjoy having a drink and a short conversation.....but NOT someone with whom you'd want to have a LONG conversation!!! Yikes!