Ugly Populism

I’d like to associate myself with everything Alan Jacobs just wrote in his post on the mosque and community center being built near Ground Zero. Newt Gingrich is a politician I would’ve considered supporting in a bid for the presidency. His behavior during this episode has cost him any chance at my vote. The United States cannot afford a president who treats Muslim Americans, or any other religious minority group, as appropriate targets of government backed discrimination. And success in the War on Terrorism requires leaders who understand the utility of allying ourselves with moderate Muslims, and doing our utmost to avoid a clash of civilizations as we oppose radical Islamists, sharia law, and other matters incompatible with our core values.

Populism can be a dangerous thing in presidential politics. Candidates like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin aren’t going to alienate the corporate interests that bankroll so many GOP campaigns, even if certain anti-corporate stances would be popular among Tea Partiers. In order to compensate, they’re going to earn their populist credentials by setting themselves up in opposition to an unpopular religious minority and railing against the mainstream media. Put another way, they’re going to garner the kind of support that won’t require them to actually act against entrenched interests should they be elected. Anyone on the right upset by “politics as usual” should wise up and understand that the candidate who most adeptly exploits culture war issues is going to continue doing so once elected. Can’t we find someone capable of directing ire at unsustainable entitlements instead of Muslim Americans?