August 8, 2022

Is Populism Going to Fritter Away Over Time as George W. Bush Predicts?

Last week, former President George W. Bush said he’s not worried about the current moment in American politics because “these populist movements begin to fritter over time.” I don’t know Bush well personally, but I served in his administration for eight years. As a senior staffer to Vice President Dick Cheney, I was in numerous meetings with Bush each week. While I did not agree with the president on every policy issue, I did leave my service with a feeling that, agree with him or not, Bush is a good person who cares a lot about our country.

That’s why his statement is so frustrating.

The country is going through profound changes and political difficulties, to say the least. Populist sentiments started way back with the Tea Party movement on the right in 2009 and the Occupy Wall Street movement on the left in 2011. You could even argue that the first signs surfaced with the Ross Perot presidential candidacy in 1992. The populist movement has been building for many years, and it shows little sign of slowing down. The majority of voters on the Republican side are Trump populists, and all the energy in current Democratic politics is with the socialist wing led by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Populism is, of course, less of a political ideology than it is a sign people are unhappy with American leadership. The approval and trust levels for elected leaders and leading institutions have been in free-fall for years. On the left and on the right, there is a growing belief that society’s riches are flowing too heavily to a privileged and well-connected few and not enough to the average American. On the left, there is a strong desire to redistribute more wealth through huge tax changes. On the right, the focus is on issues such as immigration, trade and globalization.

If you are an American leader during this time of unrest, you have a couple of options to choose from. First, think deeply about why people are upset and whether our system could use any fundamental reforms. Second, if you conclude things are fine without reforms, work as hard as possible to convince people why things are OK and/or how change could make things worse. In these scenarios, the unrest we are seeing could cause Americans to come together in a constructive way. The best historic example of constructive populism may be when anti-tax populist sentiments rose in Boston in the late 1700s. Enlightened and engaged leaders were able to harness the populist energy toward positive outcomes: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the formation of the country we now love.

In the worst-case scenario, our leaders can ignore the warning signs and hope things just fritter away. That’s the scenario we are in, unfortunately. Populism can definitely turn ugly. We have seen some of that already. And historically, ignoring the concerns of regular people led to almost 100 years of repressive communist rule in Russia and the development of a Nazi state in Germany that didn’t end until millions were killed in a world war.

Our leaders aren’t ignoring all of today’s warnings because they are bad people; they do it because our society has become so segregated that people who are thriving are surrounded almost exclusively by others who are also thriving. This segregation facilitates worldviews that can grow detached from reality.

Washington’s business is corporate influence, just as New York’s dominant industry is finance and Los Angeles’ is entertainment. Huge, multinational companies open offices in Washington with the express purpose of shaping the policy agenda. They fund the trade associations; they employ the lobby shops and public relations firms; and their advertising dollars drive the news publications that dominate our capital. An outright majority of departing members of Congress now go to work in this booming multibillion-dollar influence industry. The result is a corporate culture in Washington closely attuned to a big-business worldview, representing those who are thriving in our current system and increasingly out of touch with anything else.

Due to our extreme segregation in America, Bush and our other national leaders do not engage much on policy matters, except in highly controlled, corporate-dominated environments. The debates at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, or the once counterculture and now corporate-culture South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, do not reflect the concerns of regular Americans. These events reflect the concerns of the huge corporations that pay millions to sponsor them.

We still have an amazing country with a lot of wealth and a lot of peace by historical standards. Changes to fundamental policies such as taxes, immigration, trade or foreign policy can cause harm. But continuing to ignore the cries for change and hope the problems just fritter away is not the answer. On the contrary, such a strategy increases the chances that our current unrest leads to harmful outcomes. For our country to move in a constructive direction, our leaders need to break out of their bubbles and step up like many before them have done.

Most of our leaders care about our country. I know from years of close contact with George W. Bush that he certainly does. But these leaders are living in a world that is not reflective of America as a whole. The same voters now clamoring for change once voted for Barack Obama and George Bush. They haven’t turned into bad people overnight. They just don’t believe our system is really working for their interests. That concern can lead to positive reform, or it can turn really ugly. It’s still up to us. Either way, this isn’t likely to just fritter away.

Neil Patel co-founded The Daily Caller, one of America’s fastest-growing online news outlets, which regularly breaks news and distributes it to over 15 million monthly readers. Patel also co-founded The Daily Caller News Foundation, a nonprofit news company that trains journalists, produces fact-checks and conducts longer-term investigative reporting. The Daily Caller News Foundation licenses its content free of charge to over 300 news outlets, reaching potentially hundreds of millions of people per month. To find out more about Neil Patel and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at


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Marilyn Conlan (@guest_1186821)
1 year ago

75% of the “leaders” of our country live in a bubble where they don’t have any connection with the real world.

rb (@guest_1187068)
Reply to  Marilyn Conlan
1 year ago

Sounds like you are talking about the Republican Party, for they have done nothing for America,or even tried to

Pat R (@guest_1186831)
1 year ago

This editorial is exactly correct. It is time for our leaders to make a choice remembering that they work for us and the choices they make will not only effect us but then as well.

Martin (@guest_1186841)
1 year ago

There must be a lot CGI going on, is all I can say.

Stephen Russell (@guest_1186900)
1 year ago

Maybe not, hope hes wrong then.
Under Biden it may Bloom like under Obama
Bush your the RINO in the house.
Choose your side

Bill Schumacher (@guest_1186907)
1 year ago

Well old George was another fool that just spend like a drunken cow with no regard for future generations. Grow up george

Fed up (@guest_1186957)
1 year ago

Bush doesn’t know what he’s talking about because the majority of people in this country are disgusted with the leadership or lack there of,this mental giant doesn’t care what the people want only to shoe he has the power to do as HE pleases

Jim (@guest_1186996)
1 year ago


WE THE PEOPLE (aka SILENT MAJORITY) had countless opportunities to have stopped this nightmare, but we chose to give the DEMOCRATS what they expected of us, to REMAIN SILENT! Thus, making us equally complicit in the fraud perpetrated against United States Americans!

Isn’t it time you actually did something, took action? How much more damage needs to be done?



Can you continue to tolerate gasoline prices, product prices all going up, the WH being run by Harris, Pelosi and Schumer? Literally destroying our country, allowing thousands upon thousands of illegals into our country bringing in God knows what diseases?

Then copy and paste this information into an E-Mail and send to friends and family asking them to make the calls, then forward on to their friends asking them to make the calls and forward on! WE NEED TO MAKE THIS GO VIRAL!

Members of the House

Members of the Senate



Thomas Hulting (@guest_1187003)
1 year ago

Jorge W. Bush is the GODLESS LIAR descendent of Barbara and Jorge H. W. Bush. “RINO” understates his LYING predisposition!

Robert W (@guest_1187241)
1 year ago

He needs to remember that he is a “REPUBLICAN” and not a Demorat!!!!

Peggy Moore (@guest_1187508)
1 year ago

Bush is a one world order elite just like his father!

Major (@guest_1194275)
Reply to  Peggy Moore
1 year ago

Peggy: Bush Sr. added a word; he called it a “Glorious New World Order” President Trump isn’t one of them, that’s why they hate him, and their MSM puppets lie to the “Useful Idiots” = voters. to keep electing them.

zortilonrel (@guest_1190949)
1 year ago

I do agree with all of the ideas you have presented in your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for novices. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

frolep rotrem (@guest_1223358)
1 year ago

It is truly a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.



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