Conservative Populism
by Daryl L. Hunter

pop·u·lism • 1 - A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite. B - The movement organized around this philosophy. -- Populism is a political philosophy that holds that the common person's interests are oppressed or hindered by the elite in society.

elitism • e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism - 1 - a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class. ­ b. - Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.

Liberals bandy about the word populism in a proprietary manner as if their social advocacy made them the de facto “peoples party”. I don’t think that they are correct.

I consider myself a conservative populist. The oppressed I fight for are the folks that try to live and make a living in our mountains, our adversarial elite are the environmentalists who oppose traditional occupations of our region, ranching, farming, logging, mineral extraction, forest recreation, residential construction and tourist facilitation. To them we are trespassers in the land of the animal and tree.

The settlers of the Greater Yellowstone Region (GYE) were homesteaders and most ran cattle, the elite environmentalists don’t want cows in our national forest so they are trying to put an end to forest service grazing. Our ranchers grow hay for winter-feed at the ranch when the cows are grazing in the forest, ranchers can’t afford to stay in business if the cows have to remain on the ranch during the summer grazing on their winter feed. When ranchers tire of fighting the good fight, give up their grazing leases they are then forced into their second choice for their land. Environmentalists then react with proprietary indignation over green space they do not own and oppose the subdivision of ranches that they were instrumental in making unprofitable.

As much as I hate seeing the slow and agonizing death of the cowboy, I stand by their right to do what they like with their land after the environmentalist puts them out of business.

Loggers showed up here about the same time as Nick Wilson and the ranchers, today’s environmental elite wish to put them out of business. I believe loggers and ranchers are a community asset that should be nurtured providing they continue to go about their business in an ecologically conscientious way.

In Pinedale WY, a part of our GYE, a gas boom is going on, the gas fields provide many good paying jobs and is fattening the coffers of Wyoming. America is short of energy and us as Americans should be glad to contribute our resources. Elite environmentalists disagree, they don’t think America needs domestic energy production, they don’t want good jobs that let communities thrive in pretty places and they couldn’t give a darn about the $400 million Hathaway Scholarship fund that was funded by mineral extraction. The Hathaway Scholarship an entitlement to every Wyoming student provides up to $3,200 per year depending on a students GPA. Elite environmentalists consider the damage to the earth to high a price to pay to create such a gift for our children, I disagree! When environmentalists damn the mineral extraction industry they also damn the new Wildlife Trust Fund that is funded by it.

Conservatives go about their populism a different way. To address our housing shortage I advocate increased zoning densities and ridding the code of building height limits. These measures would increase housing availability, the increase in inventory would lower demand, therefore moderate the prices of free market homes so a truck driver or cook could afford to buy a home. It would also foster a dynamic that would reverse the gentrification of Jackson Hole, if our proletariat could live in a fifth floor walk up, the wealthy who currently displace us would find Jackson less attractive and make room for the grandchildren of the bourgeoisie. Elite environmentalists disagree!

Many of us came here as backpackers, boaters, cowboys, ski or trout bums, we stayed and often built a life and business around something we enjoyed doing, hunting, fishing, heli-skiing, rafting, snowmobiling, back-country trekking. The environmental elite hopes to put many of these bootstrap entrepreneurs out of business. Small business owner are the backbone of any community and the foundation of our economy.

I may not be the kind of populist that would volunteer to dish out soup at the rescue mission, but I am the kind that would do all he could to preserve a regional economy by protecting its jobs to keep workers and small business out of the soup line. A liberal populist would rather just dish them a little extra soup.


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