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Cheer Up, Conservatives

Really good column by David Brooks today, in which he looks to the GOP’s future beyond Trump. Excerpts:

This is a moment for honesty. Valuably, Trump has exposed the rottenness of the consultant culture, and the squirrelly way politicians now talk to us. This is a moment for revived American nationalism. Trump’s closed, ethnic nationalism is dominant because Iraq, globalization and broken immigration policies have discredited the expansive open form of nationalism that usually dominates American culture.


This is also a moment for sociology. Reaganism was very economic, built around tax policies, enterprise zones and the conception of the human being as a rational, utility-driven individual. The Adam Smith necktie was the emblem of that movement.

It might be time to invest in Émile Durkheim neckties, because today’s problems relate to binding a fragmenting society, reweaving family and social connections, relating across the diversity of a globalized world. Homo economicus is a myth and conservatism needs a worldview that is accurate about human nature.

Read the whole thing.  Brooks says that nobody knows what the next GOP will look like, but “it’s exciting to be present at the creation.” I agree. It’s about the only good news to come out of this wretched campaign: knowing that the old model is finally smashed, and the way forward is open for new ways of thinking on the Right.

That said, I am going to stick with my Alasdair MacIntyre necktie for now. I don’t know how you re-establish those social bonds when we have created a culture of autonomous individualists who don’t order their lives toward a common religion, or anything higher than what they desire. As sociologist Christian Smith and his colleagues put it, there is something deeply wrong with American culture today. We have eaten all our seed corn. Yes, we need a new politics, but politics can at best be only a partial answer to our crisis. The Republicans do need a worldview that is accurate about human nature, but can a nation in which nearly everyone has come to view freedom as the absence of restraint on the autonomous individual’s will really bring itself to see human nature as it really is, much less develop policies and laws to account for that? I’m skeptical.

I am a social and religious conservative who cannot be a libertarian on principle, because I am a conservative. Yet I find that I have to be a libertarian for pragmatic reasons, because I want my little platoon left alone by the government. And I am an embittered ex-Republican who is trying to bring himself around to realizing that as awful as the GOP is, they, and their judicial appointments, are the only thing standing between my little platoon and some pretty unfortunate outcomes. So yeah, I’ll take good cheer where I can find it.

Hey, looking for some new ideas to revive the Republican Party? You might find a few here, in Crunchy Cons. Here’s the Crunchy Con Manifesto. If you like what you see, then read the book:

  1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
  2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
  3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
  4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.
  5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
  6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
  7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.
  8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
  9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.
  10. “Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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