Some conservatives may think that the current populist insurgency consuming more and more oxygen on the Right is a new development. But you don’t need to go back too far to discover that conservative-populist debates have been part of Anglo-American conservatism for a long time. Sean Speer discovers a 1984 issue of National Review that asked the same basic questions as we’re currently confronting. How should conservatives think about populism? What’s its place in conservative politics and thought? Speer argues that the answer is that conservative reformers must put forward a positive agenda that responds to the issues animating the populists.
Author: Sean Speer
Conservatives and libertarians have had an on-again, off-again relationship for decades. They only win elections when they are united, and invariably lose them when they are divided. They are drawn together when ideological left-wing governments are in power, as they are in Ottawa and most of the big provinces today, and drift apart when conservative governments succumb to the temptations of power. Earlier this year, conservative Sean Speer and libertarian Matt Bufton debated the relationship at Carleton University. Speer’s opening remarks make the case for “Fusionism”; Bufton’s rebut will follow.
The Ontario elementary teachers’ union wants Sir John A. Macdonald’s name erased from schools. The Toronto District School Board wants “chief” removed from job titles. The Alberta curriculum is being rewritten to purge most history except colonial oppression. Discovery math is crippling student numeracy across Canada. And junior refused steak at dinner the other day because cow farts are destroying the planet. Why, it’s enough to drive mom or dad to quit their jobs and start home schooling. And the good news, writes Sean Speer, is that it’s never been easier to do just that.
Canada Post willing, a quarter million Canadians who belong to the Conservative Party are now receiving ballots enabling them to vote for their next leader. Of the 14 names on the ballot, at least one will have dropped off by the time the campaign ends May 27 and at least eight have no hope of winning. Among the five who could win, none is a perfect combination of principled conservative, party unifier, and ideal competitor to take on Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. So what should guide Conservatives in their choices? Take the long view, advises Sean Speer: vote to uphold the traditions of Canadian conservatism founded by Sir John A. Macdonald; to respect the size and role of the state in a free market economy envisaged by Adam Smith; to respect the role for customs and tradition championed by Edmund Burke; and to expand the positive contributions both libertarian and social conservatives have made to Canada over many generations. In other words, Conservatives should choose the leader they believe will best serve the traditional values and principles of their movement, rather the short-term interests of their party.