The Populist Train Has Already Left the Station

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Last week Mike Pence gave a speech at Saint Anselm College that, depending on your view of the man, was either courageous or desperate—or both. 

Titled “Populism v. Conservatism: Republicans Time for Choosing,” the speech was an homage to his hero, Ronald Reagan who, in 1964, gave a nationally televised address, “A Time for Choosing,” on behalf of Republican  presidential candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater. That hopeful and optimistic primer on modern conservatism marked the beginning of the Gipper’s rise as the political leader of the American conservative movement.

Pence earned a lot of “amens” from me as someone who’s been railing for years against the corrupting influence of populism on the right.  “Today,” Pence said,  “a populist movement is rising in the Republican Party. This growing faction would substitute our faith in limited government, and traditional values for an agenda stitched together by little else than personal grievances and performative outrage.”

I couldn’t agree more, except for one thing: That movement isn’t “rising.” That movement is risen. 

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