Populism, Nationalism, Conservatism, Oh My

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Do you even know what words are?

There has been an interesting development among the speakers from the Republican party, from bloggers to radio hosts to columnists and talking heads. Recently they discovered something (well, two things, but we’ll start with one): The Republican Party is supposedly the conservative party in the United States, and we should stand for that! And this mean guy running away with the American people’s support isn’t a conservative! He’s a stinky doodyhead POPULIST! And his supporters are nationalists and they sit in basements and beat off to cartoons! That’s not conservative!

Yeah, and neither are you monkeys.

When Mike Huckabee was getting close to having some momentary traction in his previous attempts to garner the nomination, the accusation came out that he was a populist. Populism is bad, it’s wrong, it’s conservative values and compromise that are important. With that in mind, allow me to define some terms for everyone reading and get in depth on the topics. I do this so we know which definition of a word we’re using — as opposed to the definition implied by scolds.

Populism pretty much means what it sounds like: appealing to the concerns of the general population. For some reason this is spoken as though the general person wants to murder children or something. The disdain in their voices when they say populism should give you an idea of the disdain in which they view the American people. Aside from the supposed negative connotations why in the hell shouldn’t the government serve the concerns of the people? It belongs to the people: what else is it there for?

Nationalism is often spoken as though it means racism. Unless and until there is a racially pure nation this is an unfair painting of the term based on a far more dangerous, divisive set of people. The term nationalism means what it sounds like, too: a desire for the country to be, well, a country. The geographic region of the country is to be a nation, separate and under control of those within the nation. It has no bearing on social policy within the nation, or economic policy. There can be populist nationalist nations, socialist or communist nationalists, and so on. There can also be capitalist nationalists. Any other implied meaning is there to discredit by building a sort of straw-man around the term, as with populism. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t go on to…

White Nationalism: See, that modifier changes it up a bit. Now we’re talking about a nation just for people that meet that particular definition. White nationalists want a nation of just whites and they don’t really care what else they have in common with their countrymen. Typically they are also very passionate about their beliefs and with that comes the danger of crossing them — much like an SJW, or a flaming, lunatic Islamist, there are White Nationalists who are so obsessed and passionate that they become dangerous. Fortunately, a lot of them keep to themselves — because they want to interact only with other whites. (This isn’t to say there aren’t violent White Nationalists, I’m not a moron nor am I trying to downplay the actions of those people.) Occasionally they run for office.

White separatism: The lesser of the two terms, this is a belief in racial segregation. The two aren’t mutually exclusive — clearly, White Nationalism goes hand in hand with White separatism, but you can be the latter without being the former. This is something that the rich and powerful politicians practice before lecturing the rest of white America about how racist we are, and apparently is now a part of the Oscar’s process.

Conservatism: Well, originally it meant keeping things the way they have been traditionally. Now it’s just a cudgel occasionally brought out by the Republican party to whip the religious Americans up for an election. Often it seems those professing to be conservative actually believe in libertarianism. Many early baby boomers suffer from a form of conservatism related to the America of their youths — specifically the 60s — but this is besides the political point. Often, conservatives want their view imposed by authoritarian means — that is, using the government.

Libertarianism — An undying desire to be left alone by the government to do as you please, without the nasty brutishness that would come with anarchy. Basically, as long as one isn’t hurting another, the government should butt out. Tempered with other policies this is one of my favorite outlooks.

Authoritarianism is basically the opposite of libertarianism: instead of being free to act, one is under the watchful eye. Fascism is an extreme form of authoritarianism, but most political philosophies rely on it at least somewhat in order to enforce order.

Liberalism is often sold as the belief in liberty — as in parts of libertarianism — but also equality. The problem is that, like with conservatives, liberals often want to use the government to go after those that step outside the lines. Liberals want to force equality at the barrel point of the gun (government is force, force is violence), which can get scary and fast. This is a form of authoritarianism.

There is a standard, idiotic baseball-diamond looking political chart that has Authoritarianism and Libertarianism on the top and bottom, and liberal and conservative on the left and right. This, to me, is a bunch of bunk, because it’s just a two-dimensional attempt to put people into categories without really educating them. If I were to describe my beliefs it would come out as a blend of populism, libertarianism, and nationalism. I love the Union and would very much like to keep it. I do not see it as problematic to insist on an America for Americans, and anyone willing to come here and adopt our values can become an American. It’s not about race.

The attempt to redefine many of these terms blurs the meanings for a lot of people. Nationalism isn’t racism: the United States is racially diverse and thus we aren’t excluding anyone based solely on race. (By the way, Muslim is not a race. Gentle reminder.) We aren’t even really talking about excluding anyone based on religion — so long as their religion is compatible with our values. Nationalism is less extreme than true patriotism (by the definitions) because Patriotism implies a love and support for the nation that nationalism does not. I see no problem in desiring that my government work for me and other Americans before it goes out and helps anyone else.

Bernie Sanders is actually riding quite the wave of populism and even a bit of nationalism. He’s going to win the Democratic nomination because of the populism. People are fed up with the government and how it works and he’s telling them he wants to make it work for them. Obama did that, too, but then he turned around and mostly aided the bankers and the insurance companies. Don’t believe for a second that those jokers didn’t make out like bandits when their service became required by all citizens. I don’t agree with Bernie on socialism, but I recognize his populist appeal and his concern for making the government benefit the people it serves.

Instead of saying “populist libertarian nationalism” I think a better term is Jacksonian. Andrew Jackson was the very definition of a populist president: Many of his quotes focus on ensuring the common man — the farmer, the worker — not get screwed by the government, and that the rich man — the banker, the factory owner — not unduly bend the government to serve him. This isn’t quite the same idea as a living wage guaranteed by the government (proposed by many socialists, especially in the age of automation), but it isn’t the furthest from it. Jackson believed that the government should benefit all Americans equally. That’s populism in a nutshell.

At the same time he also wanted the government to stay small and out of the way. He used his veto pen wisely. He fought his own Vice President when he disagreed with him — and this was after the old “loser is VP” system was abolished, so he chose this man — and he fought the Supreme Court. He didn’t want a big, sprawling mass controlling the lives of Americans. Not quite libertarian, of course, but a lot closer to that than conservatism or liberalism. (Perhaps classical liberalism.)

And, nationally? He threatened to cut his former Vice President’s head off if he and his state seceded from the Union. Jackson was a young man when the United States fought for independence, and he grew to love the nation and what it stood for to him. That’s a patriotic form of nationalism. Hand in hand with that, again, he wanted the government to see to Americans before it saw to anyone else.

Was he perfect? No. His treatment of Native Americans was rough. He owned slaves. But that was also the world he lived in: what do we do today that one day our descendants will view as batshit insane? “Those people drove in cars made of metal and glass! They expected people to work forty hours a week or more! What savages!” But he was as good as we could get at the time and still better than some of what we’ve had lately.

Donald Trump is accused of all sorts of isms. Nationalism, racism, populism, liberalism. He’s all sorts of phobic, he’s all sorts of hateful. But if you look at the man and listen to what he says, at the core of his message, he just wants to do what the people want. He wants the nation to be strong and to keep its citizens safe, even if this means temporarily ceasing the immigration of some groups. Personally, I would cease immigration period until the economy improves and the number of people out of the job market shrinks from record levels. We don’t have jobs for the people we already have. It has nothing to do with race, or religion, or even terrorism or safety. It’s just economics. More workers available necessarily lowers wages.

Whether you like the man or not, trust him or not, will or won’t vote for him: You have to admit, that’s one hell of a catchy slogan: Make America Great Again.

Many of the sins he supposedly commits are simply saying things in a blunt and honest way and not shying away from his beliefs. That isn’t hateful. We’ve just become so soft in this country that any disagreement is viewed as a personal attack.

Stop being a pussy and get on the train. We’re going to Make America Great Again!

(Yes, this is the official Cigars and Legs endorsement.)

If you like this post, you’ll love The Boots Are Red