Oh brother. So now Reagan was a "populist"?

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

But if David Broder wrote it in the Post, it must be true, right?

It's bad enough that Broder casually bestows the feel-good "populist" mantle on the Tea Party, despite the fact that the far-right movement it's leading seems to be fueled more from an unhealthy hatred of President Obama and an uncontrollable urge to demonize liberals (not to mention defend BP), than it does harnessing any passion for the little guy.

But Broder really wanders off into no-man's land when he suggest that Ronald Reagan, a hero to Big Business, was somehow a "populist":

Conservative populism had an unsuccessful trial run in 1964 under Barry Goldwater but did not flourish until Ronald Reagan took on the Washington establishment in 1980.

Ugh. Keep in mind the working definition of populism: is "a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite." [Emphasis added.]

I'd love to see Broder detail which part of Reagan's agenda to cut taxes for the very rich while easing regulations on business and exploding defense industry spending captured the true essence of anti-elitism populism.

Good grief, not even conservative activists believed that at the time. Note this passage from the conservative Heritage Foundation's look back at the Reagan years:

Frustrated by the New Right's decline, Richard Viguerie became more sharply populist during the Reagan years, attacking Big Government, Big Labor, Big Business, and Big Media in a new book, The Establishment vs. the People. He charged that both the Democratic and Republican parties had "come to defend a privileged elite against the will and interests of the majority." He faulted President Reagan for raising taxes, hiring "5,200 additional IRS agents," and failing to veto "unnecessary" government spending. "Who will speak for the little guy?"

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