Sunday, July 7, 2019


One of the most important books that informed my understanding of conservatism was The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 by George Nash. City Journal has an interesting article about  "George H. Nash: Conservatism’s Historian." Nash has recently published a new book, Reappraising the Right, in which he observes that:
By the 1990s...the movement had come to resemble a hand, with each digit representing a different branch of the broad conservative coalition. Here is how he describes the conservative movement:
[Conservatism] is a coalition of five distinct parts: 1) libertarians apprehensive of the threat of overweening government and the welfare state to individual liberty and free-market capitalism; 2) “traditionalist” conservatives, appalled by the weakening of the ethical norms and institutional foundations of American society at the hands of secular, relativistic liberalism; 3) anti-communist cold warriors, convinced that America was increasingly imperiled by an evil empire seeking the conquest of the world; 4) neoconservatives—disillusioned men and women of the left who had been “mugged by reality” and were gravitating toward the conservative camp; and 5) the Religious Right, traumatized by the moral wreckage unleashed upon America by the courts and by the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s.
Fusionism was an attempt, led by Frank Meyer of National Review, to reconcile the first two branches. It succeeded, at least insofar as it managed to establish a basic conservative consensus that combined a defense of Judeo-Christian values, support for capitalism, and—something all conservatives could agree on—anti-Communism. Nash’s own brand of fusionism accepts capitalism and the individual liberty on which it is based: “Liberty,” he avers, “is a vital component of what conservatives need to defend.” But liberty is not enough, and traditionalism complements libertarianism in answering a question that Nash finds central: “What kind of life should you lead once you are given freedom?” By emphasizing the importance of religious customs and the pursuit of personal virtue, traditionalists captured Nash’s sympathies.
That was the kind of conservatism that I believed in. That is the kind of conservative I still am. But, "Nash argues that Trump has shattered the fusionist consensus within conservatism. On every front, Nash claims, Trump has challenged or subverted the conservative orthodoxy. ...." I used to feel at home in what I thought of as the "Conservative Movement." I haven't felt that way since the upheaval in 2016. If you're interested in these kinds of questions you may find this interesting.

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