WHAT has populism got to do with conservatism? Quite a lot, according to this piece in the ever-brilliant City Journal.
In ‘Conservatism and the People’, Peter Berkowitz explains the rise of Trump, Brexit and the overthrow of the old globalist order.
Berkowitz: ‘Trump did not invent the alliance between conservatism and populism—or, to speak less polemically, between conservatism and the people. He rode the wave of a popular revolt sweeping across the West. In liberal democracy after liberal democracy, right-wing politicians made common cause with a disaffected portion of the working class and a perturbed segment of the middle class.’
He continues: ‘An imperious ruling elite, say many citizens in the United States and other nations, has imposed laws, cultural norms, and social practices that radiate disdain for the people’s beliefs and endanger their way of life. From this perspective, elites have conspired across political parties to promote globalization and mass immigration to benefit themselves, while ignoring the costs for the less educated and less wealthy.’
Yes, there are elites within conservatism, the leaders, but they are not elitist, they are not, unlike the Leftists, setting their faces against the interests of their fellow citizens. Berkowitz again: ‘In fact, the alliance between conservatism and the people – between elites devoted to preserving tradition and local communities and the people who want them preserved – is as old as modern conservatism itself. Its roots go back to British statesman Edmund Burke’s seminal real-time critique of the French Revolution.’
This piece goes further, however, to say that conserving is not enough, as so much as been lost. Conservatives will have to restore and renew. ‘The challenge is formidable. It calls for tenacity, broad learning, and shrewd judgment. To restore America’s beleaguered lower-middle-class communities – indeed, to earn the support of people throughout the nation, regardless of socioeconomic class – conservative elites must convince the people that individual freedom, limited government, free markets, robust civil society, and a strong America in the international arena advance the people’s long-term interests. Also, conservative elites must listen more to the people to understand better their aspirations, discontents, and fears.’
Much of this could apply to the UK, and the only question that remains is: Are we up for the fight?