Think of this as Volume 17, Number 44 of the newsletter I have written weekly since March, 1997. Enjoy.
They're not “conservatives,” as we usually define the term. They're populists.
Populism is as old as the Republic. Thomas Jefferson ran as a populist in 1800, but eventually accepted renewal of the U.S. Bank. Andrew Jackson was our most successful populist, and he killed the bank.
The Panic of 1837, which followed soon after, killed populism as a governing principle. It only ended after American imperialism seized the southwest from Mexico, and we found gold in California.
Populism then merged with anti-immigrant Know Nothingism. It infected the Democratic Party through non-slaveowners supporting the Ku Klux Klan. It only became associated with liberalism thanks to William Jennings Bryan's “Cross of Gold” speech.
But populism was never about economic theory. It was and is about relative advantage, about people losing their edge -- or assuming they're losing it -- against newcomers rising up around them.
Populism, at its heart, is about a fear of change, the assumption that everything is a zero-sum game. And it's the nature of America that it's not a zero-sum game, that history sides with the newcomers.
Populism also doesn't have to be internally consistent. It isn't.