Of course, that didn’t happen, which brings us back to Know Your Enemy and the National Conservatism Conference. I suspect that there has been a discomfort with market orthodoxy for some time on the Right; one can find it in the base, who, as we have seen, don’t really care about Paul-Ryan politics, and among young, intellectual conservatives. For those who desire to remain within the movement, that is, who are not overt racists (the National Conservatism Conference made a big deal of telling these people they were not welcome), this means some new opportunity must be sought. Trump, by and large, has allowed himself to be dominated by the business-wing of Republican. Tariffs aside, he has ruled, in terms of court appointments, economic policies, and political connections, just like any other GOP president. He cannot, in and of himself, be the answer.
In step these new “National Conservatives.” They attack market orthodoxy and foreign entanglements. They shout that we must put America first, must fight for our own poor and sick, our veterans, that we must protect our nation over and against Left-wing decadence and individualism as well as Right-wing racism. The welfare state will not be gutted; help is on the way. As Matt and Sam from the podcast note, however, these people are the same as the old ones, recycled neoconservatives and market watchers turned nationalists. Even some Right-wing commentaries agree. Their political face, Josh Hawley, is the stereotypical conservative politician—Stanford, law school, writing for the right journals, even taking Koch money. And he’s supposed to lead us to a new conservatism, a less tired one?
This, however, is exactly what makes it so genius. “National Conservatism” may be a real threat because it may be what’s left once Trump is gone. Many young conservatives, as my own experience and national trends suggest, are tired of the old fusionism. It just doesn’t work anymore. The movement needs a re-branding: what better way than the same old people with new ideas? How’s that for a better way to inhabit the tension?
If Trump is a brand and not a movement, conservatives know they’re in trouble. What’s more, young conservatives (like my former self) are no longer devout Reaganites. The Fox News Generation will only live so long. Something new must rise in the aftermath of this presidency. Why not Josh Hawley? Why not a non-racist nationalism for the (conveniently undescribed) masses? What else is there?
This should concern us. Give Hawley’s pedigree, given the backgrounds of so many attendees, National Conservatism seems as indebted to Koch money and the moneyed classes as any of its predecessors. Just as Trump promised relief and backed tax cuts, so will these people blame the immigrant in the name of corporate power. This rebranding is ingenious; it may—we shall see—be Reagan to Nelson Rockefeller, the Free Soil Republicans to the atrophied Whigs.
2020 may bring many things, but first and foremost it must bring vigilance. The Left’s squabbles may lead us to miss these sorts of developments. We must be circumspect. Thank God, then, for Know Your Enemy; thank God for, if I may put it this way, our ability to put Yoram Hazony, et al, on the couch—and listen.