The conservative movement is divided over the question of Donald Trump. At issue is the philosophy of nation-state populism that drove his insurgent campaign and led to his presidency. This philosophy, which differs in emphasis and approach from that of other post-Cold War presidents, is both enduring and undefined. Reaching as far back as Andrew Jackson, and carrying through, in different ways, Ronald Reagan, Ross Perot, Patrick Buchanan, and Sarah Palin, the nation-state populist tradition diverges from conservatism on trade, immigration, entitlements, and infrastructure, and from liberalism on sovereignty, nationalism, identity politics, and political correctness.

In this weekend seminar, students will explore the phenomenon of populism, its causes, and its potential consequences for American politics. It will be led by Matthew Continetti, an astute observer of American politics and editor-in-chief of The Washington Free Beacon.

Images courtesy The White House (1 | 2)

Matthew Continetti on Populism & Nationalism

Faculty

Matthew Continetti

Matthew Continetti is resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Prior to joining AEI, he was Editor in Chief of the Washington Free Beacon. His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Compare Fukuyama and Mead’s essays: What is populism? What is its key characteristics? From what does it arise?
  2. What is the relationship of populism to nationalism?
  3. Is it important to distinguish between left- and right-wing populism?
  4. Is American populism distinctive from populism abroad (Latin America, Europe)?
  5. Is populism best understood as a threat or corrective to democracy?

Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and editor of National Affairs. He is also a senior editor of The New Atlantis, and a contributing editor of National Review and previously The Weekly Standard. Prior to joining AEI, he served as Vice President and Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He has been a member of the White House domestic policy staff (under President George W. Bush), Executive Director of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and a congressional staffer. He is the author of The Fractured Republic (2016) and most recently, A Time To Build (2020).

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does populism express itself on the right? Compare the speeches of Buchanan, Palin, and Trump. What similarities and differences do you see in their rhetoric?
  2. Looking at the George W. Bush speech, where does the “populist” wing diverge from the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party?
  3. Does populism reflect a development of, or a departure from, the conservative tradition in America? What argument does Nash make? Caldwell?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does populism express itself on the left? Compare Sanders’ speech to those of Buchanan, Palin, and Trump. What similarities and differences do you find?
  2. Looking at the Obama speech, where does the “populist wing” diverge from the “establishment wing” of the Democratic Party?
  3. Does populism reflect a development of, or a departure from, modern liberalism? What argument does Talbot make? Stoller?

Other Courses You Might Be Interested In

Varieties of American Conservatism

Discover the intellectual roots of modern conservatism.

Can Partisanship Be Fixed?

Investigate the debate over parties by examining their nature and role in American political life.

Charles Krauthammer: A Life in the Arena

Study the writing and life of one of America's most prominent conservative thinkers.

The American Political Order

Engage key texts that have helped shape the political idea of America.

Burke & Anglo-American Conservatism

Explore the Anglo-American conservative political tradition through the writings of Edmund Burke.