I appreciated Bill Whitaker’s Sunday Q&A with George Will. I’ve read Will since I worked in Washington a half-century ago. I generally disagree with his libertarian values, but he shows an edifying grasp of history and philosophy.
I don’t agree with Whitaker’s use of the word “populism” in the question, “When did intellectual conservatism — the conservatism of ideas — begin to morph into present-day know-nothing populism?” Will answered: “Well, whatever populism is, conservatism isn’t.” Will is right. “Conservative populism” is an oxymoron. The word here is “demagoguery.” Later in the interview, Will says, “…conservatives stand against demagoguery and strong, would-be autocrats like Mr. Trump who exist to inflame passions.”
A demagogue is a person like Trump who dishonestly appeals to the passions and prejudices of ordinary people. A populist is a person who represents the legitimate needs and interests of ordinary people — particularly when they are ignored by an elite ruling class.
Waco played a significant role in the populist movement of the late 1890s. That national movement was begun by farmers in Lampasas, Cleburne and Waco. It changed American politics for good. About 15 years ago, I wrote a piece about it for the Waco Tribune-Herald. That article,Waco’s Role in the Populist Movement, is now online at the Waco History Project.
I grew up in extreme poverty. But for the Cold War GI Bill sponsored by Texas’ populist Senator, Ralph Yarborough, the "People’s Senator," it’s likely I would never have gone to college. Yarborough decried demagoguery, but he always implored, “Let’s put the jam on the lower shelf so the little people can reach it.” That’s populism.
The populists of today are people like senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown, and President Joe Biden. I am proud to call myself a populist.
Charles Reed, Waco
With abortion made illegal in Texas, it is good to know that pro-lifers will support candidates who want to provide welfare for indigent parents forced to have children. It is good to know that pro-lifers will support Head Start and other needed programs for these children that will enter a world of poverty and dysfunction.
Of course, I am being sarcastic. Conservatives only care about the fetus. The born are not really cared about by these so called pro-lifers until they reach military age. They will then be used to fight the rich man's war. These people are not pro-lifers at all. They are anti-woman, plain and simple.
John Vickrey, Norman, Okla.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., recently told a rally of religious conservatives that worshipers need a "baptism of courage" to confront the extreme left takeover of America. Heard your church "leadership" mention anything from the pulpit, or social media, prior to the past election in regard to voting for biblical principles or — God forbid — examining what those biblical principles might even be? How about an unbiased discussion of such. Nope? Not in their DNA.
Like the stupidity of promoting yard signs "Pray to end what man has created" (abortion) and not having the stones to actually speak out or suggest voting against the political ideology that virtually 100% of their leaders (who actually lead) unanimously support and promote. Not happening.
Courage is the antithesis of most church "leadership" and sadly the sheep usually follow. It was a nice thought, though.
Jamie Amos, Waco