Last week Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, made the case for “ethical” populism. Speaking of the Tea Party phenomenon, he writes,
the tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an “ethical populism.” The protesters are homeowners who didn’t walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don’t want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don’t need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right — and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.
There are of course many variations on a theme, ranging from Brooks’ “ethical” populism, to Dreher’s “crunchy” conservatism, to blatant political pandering.
But the challenge for conservatism, so often understood to be an elitist political philosophy focused on privilege, is to properly deal with populist phenomena. So this week’s PBR question is: “What is wrong with populism?”