David Frum

01.04.13

We Need Some Genuine Conservative Populism

Ross Douthat praises Erick Erickson's "A New Agenda" as a model for conservative populism.

Erickson’s “new agenda” post opens up a path out of futility for the populist right. It’s an outline, not a policy paper, but basically he argues for 1) a more family-friendly turn in tax policy, and a focus on payroll taxes as well as income taxes; 2) a more anti-corporate, anti-Wall Street turn in economic policy, based on a recognition that “the Fortune 500 has less and less in common with the fortunes of the average American,” (for readers well-versed in D.C. wonk controversies, he even sneaks in a dig at the G.O.P.’s ill-thought-out support for the existing copyright regime) and 3) a focus on the cost of higher education, in pursuit of what he calls “a low cost BA.” These ideas share space in his post with old conservative standbys like regulatory reform, school choice, and repealing Obamacare. But they are not old standbys themselves, and they offer a glimpse of what a more constructive and effective right-wing populism might be able to offer to the party — and a glimpse, too, of what might have been had Republicans thought harder about policy in 2012 instead of just expecting the economy to deliver them the White House.

That "low cost BA" sounds wonderful. With so many students piling on debt for degrees of questionable value, announce the government won't be subsidizing institutions with prolifigate spending and shoddy value.

Like Douthat, I frequently disagree with Mr. Erickson. Today's not one of those days.