The politics of every era is dominated by its own issues. The concerns that animate most voters today are no longer the ones that Republicans rode to victory in past decades. Fundamental principles abide, of course. The guiding star of American conservatism has always been liberty. But it may not be quite so easy to apply first principles to today’s issues as it was in the 1980s, and it may be harder to obtain consensus among those who call themselves conservatives.Yes, particularly because liberty may not be the lode star. The reduce the intrusiveness of government libertarians have been part of the coalition. The social conservatives who are quite willing to use the police powers of the state to criminalize sin, the national greatness conservatives who thought military force might be a way to introduce democracy in the Middle East, and the rent-seekers of the chambers of commerce each will argue for governance that intrudes properly; that's a variation on the same hubris that thought winning a war on poverty or rebuilding the cities could be done with proper policies and properly trained public administrators.
National Review's George Nash has also been surveying the fractures, and in his meditations on what came after the Soviet Bloc deconstructed itself is the recognition that each of the viewpoints enumerated above had as many reasons to leave the coalition as to stay in.
Could a movement so identified with anti-Communism survive the disappearance of the Communist adversary in the Kremlin? Without a common external foe, it has become easier for former allies on the Right to succumb to the bane of all coalitions: the sectarian temptation. It is an indulgence made much easier by the advent of the Internet.Communists persecuted churches, thus the religious could make common cause with the business interests and the libertarians against communism. But the libertine streak in libertarian circles is too much of this world and too encouraging of sin for the alliance to survive the victory. Whether business interests were opposing communism as a way of seeking rents generates another fracture.
The conservative intellectual movement, of course, did not vanish in the 1990s. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that unyielding anti-Communism supplied much of the glue in the post-1945 conservative coalition and that the demise of Communism in Europe weakened the fusionist imperative for American conservatives.
When Donald Trump burst onto the political scene last summer, many observers noticed that one source of his instant appeal was his brash transgression of the boundaries of acceptable political discourse. The more he transgressed them, the more his popularity seemed to grow, particularly among those who lack a college education.Here's where the Democrat - Media - Entertainment - Academic Complex becomes the enemy, which is a good thing for those members of the conservative coalition who would like to limit the powers of the government. Clueless, condescending, sneering, and wrong. But it will still take something to beat the current dispensation.
What was happening here? The rise of Trumpism in the past year has laid bare a potentially dangerous chasm in our politics: not so much between the traditional Left and Right but rather (as someone has put it) between those above and those below on the socio-economic scale. In Donald Trump, many of those “below” have found a voice for their outrage at what they consider to be the cluelessness and condescension of their “betters.”
What do today’s conservatives want? To put it in elementary terms, I would say that they want what nearly all conservatives since 1945 have wanted: They want to be free, they want to live virtuous and meaningful lives, and they want to be secure from threats both beyond and within our borders. They want to live in a society whose government respects and encourages these aspirations while otherwise leaving people alone. Freedom, virtue, and safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national-security dimensions of the conservative movement as it has developed over the past 70 years. In other words, there is at least a little fusionism in nearly all of us. It might be something to build on.Yes, and the defense of the intellectual and spiritual foundations goes on. Atlantic's Emma Green interviews Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr., the authors of Passing on the Right, and we see that the deconstruction of the intellectual foundations of Western civilization is a dead end.
For three generations now, conservatives have committed themselves to defending the intellectual and spiritual foundations of Western civilization: the resources needed for a free and humane existence. Conservatives know that we all start out in life as “rough beasts” who need to be educated for liberty if we are to secure its blessings. Elections come and go, but this larger work goes on.
Green: There’s this fundamental tension in conservatism: this idea that you look backwards to understand now, that fast and quick revolutionary change is not what we’re looking for. Do you think this intellectual orientation has made it harder for conservative academics to take seriously race and gender as areas of study?Put another way: when the atheorhetical approach trading under the rubric of "intersectionality" fails to elicit any new insights, the scholars will give up their potted Marxism and try something else.
Shields: I think they don’t like the way those topics are studied. They don’t like the theoretical machinery brought to bear on them—things like intersectionality. Their critique of intersectionality would not be that it’s interested in gender and race—it’s this clunky machinery that doesn’t fit very well with the empirical world. It can’t explain why black men are doing so much worse than black women, or why women now get more college education and more college degrees.
Dunn: The literature professors we interviewed were interesting on this. For many conservatives, they view great works of literature as a source of wisdom that we should be grateful for and approach humbly. They think that some of the focus on race, sex, and class—they call it the holy trilogy—seems to denigrate these great works and minimizes them.
Meanwhile, the students (via College Insurrection) are discovering that, when all the old forms of transgressivity (long hair, Marxism, gender bending, bi until graduation, what have you) are simply the new dispensation, there's still a way to subvert the dominant paradigm.
Leftism is so popular and common on campus, that it is now the status quo. The new establishment is not right-wing, but left-wing professors and administrators. A system that censors potentially offensive words, adopts explicitly leftist policy, and cuts funding to legitimate conservative groups is more closely related to a fascist gestapo rather than a welcoming campus. Politically Correct culture is reaching its peak, both in society and on campus, which means the valley is soon approaching. If conservatives have any say in this, the valley is going to be a free-fall.That what passes for left-influenced higher education is neither higher nor education only helps the insurgency.
From chalking, rallies, and activism, conservatives are opening eyes and getting behind principles that are appealing to students who feel overwhelmed by the left. The homogenous and static education system available on campus is killing critical thinking by stopping any type of objectivism, and conservatives are growing in numbers.