Don't call them conservatives. Don't call them populists. Call them what they are: authoritarian nationalists.
With the embrace of Trumpism the Republican party has fully become a nationalist party as much as Alternative for Germany or The National Front. They have melded their preexisting free-marketeering more fully onto a nationalist message, evidenced this week by new bills in the state legislatures of Missouri and Iowa to strip tenure from professors there. The politician pushing the bill in Missouri has called tenure "un-American."
Academia is one of the few institutions in this country where the left has any level of real power. And the right, as I have been at labored pains to point out, sees themselves as the "real America" that must eradicate all "un-American" elements from society. They cast a wide net. They want immigrants deported, Muslims banned, African Americans terrorized by killer cops, gays in the closet, and trans people invisible. The professors who promote points of view that contradict this must have their power broken and to live in fear, and that is exactly what these nationalists want. They want loyal, obedient subjects with enough technical knowledge to run the machines and perform their jobs, but too stupid and ignorant to be able or willing to criticize the system that dominates them.
In former times they justified these anti-academic policies via cost cutting and efficiency. "Why are we offering arts majors when we need more coders?" Now they have crossed the line into wanting those oppose them crushed directly rather than indirectly. Without tenure there are going to be mass, wholesale firings as entire departments are scrapped, and any individual professor who teaches classes on race, class, or gender will be targeted by some dipshit in the state legislature. We will have the perfect intersection of austerity and nationalism. The states want to slash non-technical education anyway, now they can have the icing on the cake by destroying the careers of left intellectuals.
In other nations where authoritarian nationalists have come to power, intellectuals and academia have never failed to be a big target. It's time for academics who've been in the lifeboats as their adjunct brethren drown around them to wake the fuck up.