The Power of Moderate Populism

My positions are centrist: Secure borders. Safe & clean cities. Don’t bankrupt America with spending. Racism against any race is wrong. No sterilization below age of consent.
– Elon Musk, posting on X, March 21, 2024

What Elon Musk posted last month on the website formerly known as Twitter are moderate, centrist, common sense opinions. They are populist sentiments shared by millions of Americans. And as such, they leave Democrats vulnerable to a landslide-level repudiation of their political power.

The millions of people who have entered the U.S. illegally since Joe Biden took office have overwhelmed public services in major Democrat-run cities. It is clearly unsustainable and dangerous, and Americans are belatedly realizing it isn’t congressional inaction that caused the flood of new arrivals; it was a flurry of executive orders and statements from Biden that began the day he took office.

At the same time as immigrants poured into American cities by the millions, these same cities were already becoming ungovernable—virtually all of them ran by Democrats—thanks to progressive District Attorneys elected due to massive campaign contributions made by Democrat billionaires, along with “reforms” that gutted both the laws designed to control crime and the police departments needed to enforce those laws.

Americans have also been victims of the most severe bout of inflation since the 1970s and aren’t the least bit impressed when Biden and his followers claim the rate of inflation is coming down. Everything in America, from housing and rent to food, healthcare, tuition, and fuel, has gone up to household budget-breaking levels, and it doesn’t matter if that level isn’t rising as fast as it did. Prices need to come down, not go up at a lower rate of speed. Americans are looking for answers and have realized Democrats don’t have any.

As for “racism against any race is wrong,” that sort of sentiment used to be successfully disparaged by Democrats as an example of “coded racism” or a “racist dog whistle.” Not anymore. It’s become obvious that institutionalizing a race-based set of differing standards for college admissions and hiring decisions is harming everyone, including the people these preferences are designed to help. What once was quaintly referred to as “reverse discrimination” is coming to an end. It’s going to take a while, but it’s over.

Which brings us to “no sterilization below the age of consent.” Democrat strategists apparently thought that championing “gender confirmation surgery” for minors would unite the nation in shared hostility against “bigoted Republicans,” who subscribe to the antiquated notion that children and adolescents shouldn’t be permitted to make that decision and doctors shouldn’t be allowed to perform those procedures. This ploy worked for a while, but it doesn’t anymore. The tide has turned. They miscalculated and overreached. This, too, is over.

What Musk tweeted is an example of moderate populism. It’s not the more commonly heard “conservative populism,” even though most conservatives share these positions. This is an important distinction to make and to insist upon because it is difficult, if not impossible, to stereotype a moderate as an extremist and a danger to democracy.

There’s another moderate populist out there, with a public profile that exceeds even that of Elon Musk. That’s Donald Trump, of course. Thanks to Trump’s pugilistic persona, it’s harder to assert that he, too, is a moderate populist, which makes it all the more necessary to do so. Because if you evaluate Trump’s actions while in office and his core positions on the most important issues of our time, there is strong evidence that he is not the least bit extreme in his views.

The four positions that Trump has been consistent on for his entire political life concern immigration, trade, foreign policy, and environmentalism. For each of them, his positions are founded on common sense. Controlled, merit-based immigration. Reciprocity in trade. A foreign policy that relies on strategic and technological military supremacy as a deterrent and avoids costly, controversial foreign interventions and occupations. And an environmental policy that recognizes how excessive environmentalist regulations have hobbled America’s economy and are one of the primary reasons that prices for all of life’s essentials are not coming down.

With those as Trump’s most defining positions, why on earth wouldn’t a decisive majority of Americans want him running this country again instead of Joe Biden?

Trump voters have been tagged as stupid, dangerous simpletons, ready to vote for politicians that will plunge America into a new dark age. To reinforce this smear, MAGA voters are depicted as intolerant bigots, and news reports focus on the polarizing issues of transgenderism, sexism, and racism. But as Elon Musk has expressed, there are common sense, intellectually coherent positions on these issues that are best described as moderate populist and not extreme.

Further evidence of Trump’s moderate populist politics is found in his stance on abortion. Trump has correctly pointed out that support for very late-term abortions is an extremist position; they were arguably forbidden even under the Roe v. Wade decision. At the same time, Trump has stated that recent pro-life actions in Alabama and Arizona go too far. Finding common ground on the abortion issue is impossible. Trump’s position on abortion may infuriate principled opponents, but it is not extreme.

The real threat that Trump poses to the establishment is financial, involving immigration, trade, war, and “environmentalism.” Trump threatens the billionaires and corporations that are raking in billions on cheap labor, offshoring manufacturing, war profiteering, and overpriced products that would be affordable if environmental regulations hadn’t forced businesses to consolidate into oligopolies just to have the scale to comply.

This fact that Trump’s positions threaten powerful financial interests belies any claims that he or his supporters are right-wing extremists. Since when were right-wing extremists opposed to corporate power and foreign wars? Trump flipped that script, and, overnight, Democrats became the party of the plutocrats. Trump is a moderate populist; his positions literally define moderate populism.

The next time NPR inserts the adjective “right wing” before reporting on something Elon Musk has said or done, or the ominous phrase “threat to democracy” before reporting the latest news about Donald Trump, bear in mind who NPR represents, along with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC. They are wholly owned by American oligarchs, who have a vested interest in destroying populism in America, even if it is entirely moderate in tone and intent.

But populism, by its very nature, is not easily stopped. We may be thankful that populism, American style, still remains rooted in the best aspects of our character.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness

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