Conservatism and Elitism

Zack Boyden

NPG 655; Edmund Burke studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds
studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, (1767-1769)

Conservatism has a problem with elitism. Republicans may pull some votes from the populist side, but it’s not a far stretch to say that the authors of ideology can often find themselves hilariously out of touch with their own base. Trump’s popularity seems to be indicative of this–party elites failed to stay in touch with the conservative working class, and thus lost them.

The New Yorker and FiveThirtyEight say otherwise, though. Yet again it seems as though a populist form of thought has been ensnared by elites. Inevitably, what seems like a populist revolution will once again betray the working class and conservatism will yet again be in crisis.

The difficulty with elitism in conservatism is prevalent, and it stems from the core conservative belief of a natural hierarchy. It’s been that way from Burke to Reagan, whether their adherents will acknowledge it or not. It manifests itself in different ways from endorsing a monarchy to putting faith in so-called “job creators.” This is a manipulation of conservatism–those in power use it as a way to justify their own power, and then use it to justify unjustly taking more of it.

What conservatives need to do is to stop “appealing” to the working class by acting smarter than them, and actually realize that both working class conservatives and the conservative elite do have common goals. There doesn’t need to be any shadow-play- objectives need not be hidden. If you are surviving day-to-day, you are doing something right, whether you’re a doctor or a plumber. The purpose is not profit- the purpose is survival. As a progressive Republican, the aim is to maintain that conservative basis while not being afraid of experimentation for future well-being. That’s something everyone can get behind.


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