The two dirty secrets of nationalist populism are increasingly obvious. First, it’s not conservative; not even a little. All the fantasies of Trump-Bannon nationalism require a vastly expanded state, with greater powers over the economy and society. Free-market capitalism doesn’t pick economic winners and losers based on the president’s economic nostalgia, and limited-government conservatism isn’t marked a top-down ideological conformity strictly enforced by state media organs.
Second, nationalist populism isn’t a political philosophy or a real governing framework. It’s a con targeting the furious and the febrile, a Facebook click scam disguised as a movement. It’s nothing more than grunting, economically ignorant revanchism against a catalog of imaginary, opera-buffa villains. It requires a constantly expanding catalog of people to blame for an economy that changed more due to technology than a sinister cabal of brown people from faraway lands.