In the LA Times today, Jonah Goldberg pushes back against defenses of Donald Trump which rely on the claim that “populism” has always been a part of the Republican message:
Not all populisms are the same, because though they all claim to be the voice of the people, they invariably speak with a specific voice for a specific subset of the people….Populism is a bottom-up phenomenon, but it is shaped and defined by rhetoric from the top. And just as there are differences between left and right populism, there are different kinds of conservative populism.
I appreciate the small band of conservative NeverTrumpers. Really, I do. But I sure wish they could be a little more forthright about exactly what makes Trump’s brand of populism so poisonous: namely that the “specific subset of the people” Trump speaks for is explicitly white people. He routinely appeals to white resentment and racial bigotry with barely even a fig leaf to camouflage what he’s doing. This appeal has been a part of the Republican Party for decades, but in recent years its public face has dwindled, mostly taking the form of wink-wink-nudge-nudge innuendo. Trump doesn’t bother. His core base is white people who are mad at blacks and Hispanics and Muslims, and he’s happy to publicly stoke their anger.
Aside from his chaotic incompetence, this is what makes Trump different and toxic. It’s not his conservative heresies on trade or entitlements or Putin or NATO. It’s his racism. It shouldn’t be so hard to put that front and center.