Quoth Jonathan Rauch in National Journal.
I like Rauch a lot. He's good at channeling the raging id that I have deep down inside which loves to lash out at conservative anti-intellectualism. At the same time, I recognize the problems with giving my id too much free vein.
Let's start with acknowledging that okay, much of the tea partiers' belief system is intellectually incoherent. Fine. Most popular political movements are incoherent at some level. The bleeding heart types are as bad in their own way. Of course, that doesn't make it right when the bleeding hearts do it either. Rauch's right to acknowledge the problem. But sometimes he veers too far off into the direction of suggesting that this is a world historically bad time for the libertarian right. Whereas in my estimation, to paraphrase Churchill, our own historical moment is the worst time for the libertarian right except for all of the others.
I'm also put off by the choice of George Wallace as archetypal bad populist because of Wallace's famous racism. To his credit, Rauch acknowledges up front that the modern populist GOP is admirably non-racist. While I appreciate the concession, the whole exercise is a bit like a writing a column about Hitler's vegetarianism and gently asking the reader to set aside the whole Holocaust thing for a few minutes. Theoretically possible to put aside intellectually, yes; in practice, however, nearly impossible to accomplish because the emotional connotations are just too strong.
On a different note: why have populists picked out Brie as their favored symbol of elitist opprobrium? One, it's delicious. Two, a wedge of it typically costs about $5 ($3 for a small wedge and $7 for a really large one.) As far as luxuries go, this is a pretty affordable one.