Former Vice President Mike Pence gave a full-throated condemnation of Republican populism on Wednesday and implored Republicans to embrace traditional conservatism over the rising movement he likens to progressivism on the left.
Speaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, Pence laid out a stark contrast between his vision for the Republican Party and that of populists like former President Donald Trump.
Pence sees the differences between traditional conservative values and populism as irreconcilable and notes the GOP has come to a crossroads:
I came here to St. Anselm College to simply say from my heart that Republican voters face a choice in this state and in every state around the nation as these primaries unfold, and I believe that choice will determine the fate of our party and the course of our nation for years to come. So today I asked my fellow Republicans this: In the days to come, will we be the party of conservatism, or will we follow the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principles? The future of this movement in this party belongs to one or the other, not both. That’s because the fundamental divide between these two factions is unbridgeable.
Pence argued that while conservatism in the GOP has long had ideological differences with liberalism in the Democratic party, populism is now threatening conservatism “from within” the GOP. Pence sees populism as the right’s equivalent of progressivism on the left, with both being different strains of the same ideology.
“Those ideologies are fellow travelers on the same road to ruin,” he contended before noting some of America’s previous left-leaning populist movements.
Pence is concerned that populist Republicans are willing to abandon long-held conservative values in the GOP, including “faith in limited government,” in favor of “an agenda stitched together by little else than personal grievances and performative outrage.”
“The Republican populists would abandon American leadership on the world stage, embracing a posture of appeasement in the face of rising threats to freedom. Republican populists would blatantly erode our constitutional norms,” he added.
He then took aim at his former running mate, Trump, who has adopted populist themes since entering the political realm in 2015, and his “imitators” in the primary field whom Pence sees as abandoning the U.S. Constitution and the life movement:
A leading candidate for the Republican nomination last year called for the ‘termination of all rules, regulations and articles even those found in the Constitution,’ while these imitators in this primary have demonstrated a willingness to brandish government power to impose their will on opponents. And even after a historic victory for life, Republican populists would relegate the cause of protecting the unborn to the states, much in the way during another time in the life of our nation, those who sought to preserve a great evil tried to leave that question to the States alone.
“There’s already a party that embraces appeasement abroad. There’s already a party that would ignore our national debt. There’s already a party that wants to marginalize the right to life,” Pence went on to add.
The former vice president and Indiana governor sees himself as “the most qualified, the most consistent, and the most proven conservative in this race” and believes a path of traditional conservatism “must guide our party and our nation as much today as they have for the past 50 years.”
“Should the new populism of the right seize and guide our party, the Republican Party we’ve long known will cease to exist, and the fate of American freedom would be in doubt,” he cautioned.
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