How can a limited-government Tea Party Republican like Mr. DeSantis have become comfortable with this use of government? For that matter, how is it that so many Tea Party types moved so easily toward Trumpist populism?
The key, I think, is that for many people on the right, a libertarian-oriented politics was largely a way to register opposition to the mandarins who have an outsized influence on our public life. And it turns out that populism is an even more pungent way to register this opposition. Progressive domination of elite culture has now grown to include formerly neutral institutions like corporations and sports leagues. More conservatives are beginning to believe that the only countervailing institutional force is democratic political power as reflected in governor’s mansions, state legislatures and — likely beginning next year — Congress.
“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once wrote. “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”
Given the state of play, conservatives have been learning to appreciate Moynihan’s liberal truth. If Florida’s culture-war initiatives succeed, the education establishment in the state will not mindlessly absorb the latest left-wing fad. Corporations will be warier of wading into hot-button social fights. In other words, the culture of these institutions will have changed for the better.
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