I recently completed my first volume of poetry titled, “Populist Elegance.” Populist Elegance is how I see the world as both an unashamed and unabashed populist and somebody who has always sought out higher-level intellectual pursuits. I am far from elegant, though, I’ll leave that to others. But I appreciate elegance and refinement in aesthetics, literary style, culture, and politics. I embody the marriage of populism and elegance. I’ve traveled far and wide, but call a very populist City, Erie, PA my hometown.
Populism seems like the very antithesis of “elegance,” but its not. The erroneous definition of populism would be crass and uncultured, uneducated and simple. Populism is far from simple. Its what the United States was founded upon, Populism. Populism is truly the right of leadership to the best among us regardless of their social standing at birth, their family history, their race or ethnic makeup, religion, or creed. Who is the best among us? You!
The elitist holds that the best among us is himself or herself. Their understanding of the role and function of Government is better than the every day Americans because they have been ‘schooled’ in its tradition. They are more capable of leadership because they have a degree, family or personal connections, or money. Populism celebrates the other, the totality of the other as they toil in the fields, the machine shops, the small businesses across this great Nation. And that is EXACTLY what makes Populism, Elegant.
Elegance is grace. As the Bible teaches, Grace is not reserved for the high and mighty. Grace is given by divinity, by the love of God and Jesus Christ. Refinement is not material, it is not how one looks, it is not who one knows, their rolodex. Refinement is the interest in a higher calling and higher pursuits best done in your own backyard quietly discovering oneself through study. That is not only reserved for the public intellectual who so often these days makes a show out of every book they’ve read, every idea they can regurgitate on paper or in person.
Populism is Elegance and Elegance is Populism.
Populist Elegance is the movement to celebrate this key understanding of politics and life. America is Populist Elegance. How many of America’s great leaders chose a path for themselves and their families that took them through the mud of the fields or the streets to protest injustice or the battlefields to fight injustice? How many of our great American leaders chose hardship and simplicity, quiet study and virtue, instead of public celebration? Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan come to my mind when I think of quiet virtue. Ralph Waldo Emerson, too, who chose the quiet reflection upon self, self-reliance, as the philosophical foundation upon which to found the ideology of a Nation.
When I think of the future of the conservative movement, I think of Populist Elegance. The Conservative movement right now grows more fractured by the day. Tea-Party members in Congress seem to buck the President, or support his efforts only half-heartedly. The Bush wing of the Republican Party, without an heir, still has not wholly bought in to Trump, present or future. Senators who straddle both sides seemingly face contested races in solidly Republican States. The Conservative movement of today is losing steam.
Conservatism is deserving of much more because it is the ideological movement that has won the day. Above all else, I am surprised at how the Conservative movement has lost steam. Why has this occurred when the movement was correct about so many pertinent issues such as the outcomes of bail-outs, troop withdrawal from the Middle East, Chinese foreign influence, and the rise of socialism in the United States? The Conservative argument wins almost every issue yet trail in the polls. What is going on?
Despite its challenges, the Conservative movement is also on the verge of greatness. Moderate Democrats will soon leave the Democratic Party in droves as radical socialism takes root. What better description of Populist Elegance than the white collar former DEM working in the creative industries? Most are not elitist, but prefer to spend their days attending a Jazz Music Festival, reading the top of the New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list, or curating fine art, in their jeans and black V-neck t-shirts.
And what about Black Americans? Many celebrate Conservative social values. Many support the free-market as entrepreneurs and dream of prosperity as equality. Are they not the very definition of Populist Elegance? To me, the stoic and stolid Black American, the dependable Black American, represents all that is great about America, without forgetting the painful injustices they endured for generations, and still endure today.
I also think of the stoic and stolid mainline Conservative, the Conservative of Ronald W. Reagan, the conservative who quietly spends their days at work, on the farm, in the fields, or in the office. They are made Elegant by their virtue, their willingness to help their neighbor, their willingness to awake early to go to work, quiet simplicity, honest virtue, and economic policy that supports bottom-up wealth creation.
Populist Elegance is an intellectual movement that aspires to advance the American ideology into a new era where high financial institutions, globalism, and elitism are rejected in favor of community-driven, bottom-up, and internal values and ingenuity. Let us seek elegance, let us seek grace from our current status in life without a second thought as to whether we are worthy. We are worthy and proud. We are Populists and we are Elegant.