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Fusionism Once and Future

Spring 2017 - Vol. 59, No. 2


This essay appears in the symposium Being Conservative in the Year of Trump, in the Spring 2017 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.


Donald Trump was a political tsunami. Like the earthquake-driven waves of the Pacific, he rolled on and on, overwhelming everything that stood in his path. The pundits and experts—I among them—said he could never win a primary, never be nominated, never compete in blue states, never triumph in a general election. And yet he did.

The house of conservatism is among the ruins Trump left in his wake. Despite its imposing appearance, it turned out to be a house of cards. A stranger to the movement, Trump perceived weaknesses that eluded the politicians, activists, and intellectuals who populate official conservatism. Contrary to all expectations, their almost unanimous resistance barely slowed him down.

Now it is the insiders who find themselves on the outside. Eager for a share of the power they were unable to acquire for themselves, many luminaries of the conservative world are reconsidering their opposition. Among the politicians and activists, that means seeking patronage in the new administration. Intellectuals, for their part, have discovered an appreciation not only for Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy on specific issues but also for populism as a disposition.

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” is an ancient maxim of politics. Nevertheless, conservatives should exercise the most extreme caution in their attempts to ride the wave that delivered Trump to his inauguration.

One reason is that populism is not as popular as many people think. Trump won the Electoral College by a historically unimpressive margin and failed to achieve a majority of the popular vote. His victory, therefore, rested on a swing of about 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. That is an unusually thin foundation for claims of a significant change in the country’s ideological affinities.

Trump’s supporters minimize this fact by insisting that Trump won in “real America.” The implication is that ethnic minorities, city dwellers, the well-educated, and so on are not real Americans. The populist distinction between the authentic nation and its parasites is quite different from Publius’s observation that large populations divide naturally into factions. It is a binary division that transforms legitimate rivalry among interests into an existential struggle between enemies.

Finally, we would belie our ostensible commitment to virtue by embracing the most venal figure ever to reach the office of the president. Leo Strauss once reminded the editors of National Review that “a conservative . . . is a man who despises vulgarity; but the argument which is concerned exclusively with calculations of success, and is based on blindness to the nobility of the effort, is vulgar.”[1] Winning is not the only or most important thing.

Conservatism does have to adapt if it is to survive the Age of Trump. But a conservatism that panders to populist fantasies and embraces the morality of professional wrestling is not worth saving. One place to start rebuilding amid the ruins is a return to the blueprint developed by political theorist Frank Meyer as the modern conservative movement was first taking shape. “Fusionism” is part of the conservative past. But it may also be the future.

What was fusionism?

Fusionism was once among the most familiar concepts in the conservative lexicon. Although its character as a political theory has been almost forgotten, it is still widely recognized as a reference to Meyer’s efforts to find common ground in the struggles between libertarians and traditionalists that characterized conservative thought in the 1950s. Libertarians argued that individual freedom was the supreme value. Traditionalists, on the other hand, argued for deference to inherited norms and institutions.

Meyer answered that both sides were partly right. Freedom was “an essential aspect of man’s being” and therefore the condition of all truly human ends. But this did not mean all ends were equally good: man’s choices were subject to distinctions between good and evil, just and unjust. It was not always easy, however, for the individual person to identify the difference. Therefore, the guidance of tradition was essential. As Meyer put it, “A good society is possible only . . . when social and political order guarantees a state of affairs in which men can freely choose and when the intellectual and moral leaders, the ‘creative minority,’ have the understanding and imagination to maintain the prestige of tradition and reason, and thus to sustain the intellectual and moral order through society.”[2]

This vision of a good society implied a sharp distinction between politics and morality. The legitimate purposes of government, Meyer argued, were securing physical safety from enemies foreign and domestic, and providing for the peaceful resolution of disputes. In his topical writings, Meyer criticized most forms of social provision. In later years this uncompromising attitude led Murray Rothbard to characterize Meyer as a libertarian manqué.[3]

But a commitment to limited government did not mean abandoning traditional conceptions of virtue. Rather, it was only under conditions of freedom that the choice of virtue was morally significant. Indeed, Meyer’s argument for limited government implied an enhanced role for philosophical educators and pedagogical institutions. In this respect, fusionism stood in tension with populism.

On one level, then, fusionism was a way of articulating the relationship between two different kinds of action: political action subject to coercion and moral action subject to choice. In another sense, however, it was an epistemology. Beyond the dispute about the purposes of government, libertarians and traditionalist arguments were characterized by appeals to different authorities. Libertarians appealed to reason, often arguing deductively from first principles. Traditionalists justified their claims by reference to precedent and the lessons of experience.

Again, Meyer argued that both sides were possessed of part of the truth. Libertarians were right to assert that only reason could ultimately justify claims about the right way to live. In making this assertion, they were following the examples of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

But libertarians were mistaken to think—or argue as if they thought—that reasoning about human affairs could be conducted a priori, without reference to historical or personal experience. That way led to the kind of “arid and distorting ideology” that justified the French Revolution and its successors.[4] It was not only simple folk who needed the guidance of tradition. Because of their inclination toward abstraction, intellectuals had even greater need of restraint.

On the other hand, habit and precedent were insufficient guides to human conduct. While a useful check on dangerous experiments, resistance to change could also lead to unreflective acceptance of whatever exists. “Natural conservatism” had to be supplemented with rational criticism, Meyer insisted, because so many recent changes had been destructive of inherited wisdom and prudential norms. In order to respond to those errors, “Today’s conservatism cannot simply affirm. It must select and adjudge. It is conservative because in its selection and in its judgment it bases itself upon the accumulated wisdom of mankind over millennia, because it accepts the limits upon the irresponsible play of untrammeled reason which the unchanging values exhibited by that wisdom dictate.”[5]

Because “conscious conservatism” required distinctions between desirable and undesirable changes, the opposition between reason and tradition was a false dichotomy. Instead of rivals, the two sources of knowledge were intertwined in a productive tension that Meyer characterized as “reason operating within tradition: neither ideological hubris creating Utopian blueprints, ignoring the accumulated wisdom of mankind, nor blind dependence on that wisdom to answer automatically the questions posed to our generation and demanding our own expenditure of mind and spirit.”[6]

Meyer’s conviction that his theory echoed the “underlying ethos of the West” was the reason he disliked the term fusionism. Instead of forging an eclectic synthesis of disparate elements, Meyer sought to uncover a coherent and “truly Western philosophy of freedom.”[7] As philosophy, fusionism was founded on argument and rational critique rather than derived from unreflective habit or an act of faith. As Western, it was already latent in our practices, judgments, and institutions, no matter how threatened these might be.

Fusionism and traditionalism

The dialectical aspect of fusionism has been misunderstood almost since it was articulated. In a series of responses written in the early ’60s, Russell Kirk contended that Meyer was guilty of the very abstraction he claimed to oppose. “Order and justice and freedom are found in divers [sic] ways,” Kirk wrote, “but they cannot be divorced from the historical experience of a people. Theory divorced from experience is infinitely dangerous, the plaything of the ideologue, the darling dagger or energumen.”[8]

For Kirk, in other words, fusionism was not conservative enough. He charged that Meyer, though paying formal homage to authority and experience, was not willing to accept that different societies found different paths to different kinds of happiness—not all of which revolved around individual freedom. Kirk was willing to admit that the individual played a central role in American life. But he saw this as a reason for criticism rather than celebration.

Although they disagreed about the value of freedom, many libertarians agreed with Kirk’s judgment that Meyer’s proposal was theoretically incoherent. According to Rothbard, fusionism was merely a “myth” intended “to hold two very disparate wings of a political movement together and to get them to act in a unified way.”[9] Meyer was essentially a libertarian who made inconsistent and instrumental gestures toward tradition, Rothbard argued. In every case where it mattered, Meyer appealed to the freedom to choose rather than the inheritance of tradition.

Kirk and Rothbard missed the mark, however, because they went looking for fusionism in the wrong places. Despite his frequent tributes to the genius of the American Founding, Meyer contended that the greatest achievement of Western civilization was not a particular regime but the vision of the unique person poised between a transcendent God and impersonal nature. In a little-read 1968 essay, “Western Civilization: The Problem of Freedom,” Meyer wrote:

The simultaneous understanding that there exists transcendent perfection and that human beings are free and responsible to move towards perfection, although incapable of perfection, no longer puts men in an intolerable dilemma: the dilemma either, on the one hand, of denying their freedom and their personhood and sinking back in cosmological annihilation within a pantheistic All, or, on the other hand, of trying by sheer force of will to rival God and, as Utopians, to impose a limited human design of perfection upon a world by its nature imperfect. The Incarnation, understood as “the flash of eternity into time,” the existential unity of the perfect and the imperfect, has enabled men of the West to live both in the world of nature and in the transcendent world without confusing them. It has made it possible to live, albeit in a state of tension, accepting both transcendence and the human condition with its freedom and imperfection.[10]

In its essentials, Meyer’s view was theological. As the reference to the Incarnation indicates, he understood the human condition as a kind of unity in division. Kirk had charged that individualism was an attack on Christianity. Meyer answered that “the freedom of the person” to rise above nature while remaining subject to transcendent standards was Christianity’s most distinctive product.[11]

So fusionism was more traditionalist than it appeared. It was also more deeply rooted in European thought. Daniel McCarthy and Paul Gottfried have pointed out the influence of Eric Voegelin.[12] Somewhere behind Voegelin lurks Hegel, who also presented Christian liberty as the decisive feature of Western civilization. A former Marxist, Meyer associated Hegel with the doctrine of the state. His thought would have been enriched by greater interpretation of Hegel’s bold attempt to develop a philosophy of freedom that was more historically and theologically informed than his predecessors’. The recovery of the fusionist Hegel remains a task for the future.

Whatever its origin, the idea of the person as a dynamic paradox is a source of fusionism’s value today. Rather than a dogmatic argument for ever-smaller government, fusionism rightly understood is about promoting the freedom of persons to live well-ordered lives. Populism, on the other hand, aims to use coercion to benefit the right kind of people. That is the temptation Meyer opposed, as we should today.

Fusionism and populism

Kirk and Rothbard offered essential friendly critiques of fusionism. The response from populists—confusingly described as paleoconservatives—was more hostile. The most penetrating of these critics was the brilliant and controversial journalist Samuel Francis. Drawing on James Burnham’s theory of the managerial revolution, Francis argued that the “Old Right” for which fusionism provided a theoretical justification posed no challenge to the status quo:

Conventional Old Right doctrines revolved around the ideas of a constitutionally limited central government, largely independent local and state government, an entrepreneurial economy, and a moral and social code of restrained or “ascetic” individualism in politics, economy, art, religion and ethics. These doctrines reflected the institutions and beliefs of the bourgeois elite that had gained political power in the Civil War and prevailed until the dislocations of the twentieth-century technological and organizational expansion that brought forth a new managerial elite that seized power in the reforms of the Progressive Era and the New Deal . . . while the Old Right of the 1950s was in principle aware and critical of the new power structure, it continued to regard itself as essentially “conservative” of an established or traditional order rather than frankly acknowledging that it had been dethroned and that a counterrevolutionary mission, not “conserving,” was its mission, its proper strategy.[13]

Fusionism, from this perspective, was little more than a theorist’s fancy. This was not because it attempted to paper over differences between distinct theoretical positions but because the conception of ordered liberty that traditionalists and libertarians shared was no longer shared by the ruling class.

The lack of a social base explained why conservatism never seemed to get anywhere. The New Deal was not only preserved but extended. Opposition to the sexual revolution that began after the Second World War was even less successful. The old morality vanished almost without a fight.

Instead of conserving what no longer existed, Francis recommended a frankly reactionary politics based on the economic interests and cultural preferences of “Middle American Radicals.” He did not pretend this politics would uphold constitutional norms. In his 1982 essay “Message from MARs: The Social Politics of the New Right,” Francis urged the adoption of what he called a “Caesarist tactic.” This quasi-dictatorial approach involved the assertion of executive power against the ostensible bastions of the managerial elite—“Congress, the courts, the bureaucracy, the media, etc.”[14]

Along with Caesarist tactics would go new values. Francis proposed economic growth rather than fiscal restraint and “a new activist and expansionist nationalism” rather than prudential realism.[15] Overall, the goal was a redirection rather than a reversal of the statist and centralizing trends that characterized the twentieth century: the aggressive use of government to provide material and emotional gratification to a favored constituency.[16]

Reagan had no interest in playing the American Caesar. But the hope for an unabashed champion of white provincial America did not disappear. In the 1990s it was associated with Pat Buchanan, whose criticisms of free trade, immigration, and international humanitarianism brought the agenda up to date for the post‒Cold War era. Beyond small circles of right-leaning intellectuals, however, the idea of a postconservative right attracted relatively little attention.

Until Trump, whose stunning victory has cast all political certainties into doubt. Informed that a Republican could not win the presidency without expanding his appeal among minorities, Trump did just that. His success in key states rested on mobilization of “missing” whites rather than broadening the GOP coalition. The conventional wisdom was wrong. Heretics like the pollster Sean Trende and alt-right journalist Steve Sailer were right.

Before he could win the White House, of course, Trump had to win the nomination. Because historical trends gave any Republican the advantage in 2016, his achievement in the primaries was in some ways even more extraordinary. Contrary to widespread assumptions about a stalwart base, it turned out that Republican primary voters were ready for the alternative Francis sketched out decades ago. As Yuval Levin has noted, “Trump showed that much of the base of the party was driven far more by resentment of elitist arrogance, by a rejection of globalism, and by economic and cultural insecurity than by a commitment to conservative economic or political principles.”[17]

The strength of these sentiments suggests that any future Republican coalition must make room for populists. The so-called Old Right accommodated the Bible Belt and neoconservatives in order to build Reagan’s coalition. The remnants of that coalition now have to learn to live with lowbrow culture, Jacksonian belligerence, and economic protectionism. Stephen Moore, an early supporter of Trump, recently announced that “Trump has converted the GOP into a populist, America First party.” “If you want purity,” he insisted, “vote for Ron Paul for president again and see where that gets you.”[18]

Leaving to one side the question of whether Ron Paul is the appropriate comparison, Moore is right that conservatives who care about ideas have to try harder to understand Trumpism. Getting a better sense of what is at stake is, at minimum, a preliminary to responsible compromise. But some things are not up for negotiation. People willing to sacrifice anything to make a deal rarely end up winners from the bargain.

Why we still need fusionism

It is not easy to characterize Trumpism as an ideology. Rather than a coherent theory, it is composed primarily of the “irritable mental gestures” in which its namesake indulges. Nevertheless, there are patterns in Trump’s utterances and the more articulate statements offered by his allies. The following I take to be the main points.

The first pillar of Trumpism is the claim that the system is rigged. The basic idea is that the important decisions are made in the dark, without much concern for the people they effect and immune from public scrutiny. Hillary Clinton provided a vivid and damaging illustration of this point when she informed a major trade organization that “if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So you need both a public and a private position.”[19] It transpired that her private positions on trade and immigration were very different to her public ones.

A second and related concern is that the economic order produced and sustained by the rigged system is hostile to the interests of most Americans. Free trade allows the exportation of jobs, while excessive regulation discourages economic activity. Some of Trump’s opponents have gleefully pointed out that his supporters were not especially impoverished. But one need not belong to the wretched of the earth to think that the bipartisan consensus of the past several decades has offered few benefits to the skilled workers who were once the backbone of the middle class.

The third element is fear that the country itself is changing in ways that many citizens neither requested nor endorsed. Often expressed as opposition to illegal immigration and “political correctness,” this aspect of Trumpism draws on deeper anxieties about American identity. America once possessed a public culture that treated European descent and Christian affiliation as socially normative as well as statistically normal. That is no longer the case.

Although they often take exaggerated form, there is more to these claims than conspiracy theorizing, special pleading, or racism. The political, economic, and cultural clout of the ordinary citizens in general and the white working class in particular has declined over the past few decades. A whole genre has emerged to explore this decline since Trump’s political viability became evident last winter. For all their dysfunctional habits, it is hard not to sympathize with J. D. Vance’s hillbillies or the photojournalist Chris Arnade’s “back-row kids.”[20]          

But sympathy for Americans whose worlds have been shaken up by cultural change and globalization should not obscure the dangers of Trumpism. Suspicions about a rigged system and corrupt elite encourage dictatorship. Demands that economic policy provide jobs tend to degenerate into the cronyistic protection of emotionally significant but economically negligible enterprises. Finally, the celebration of “real” Americans tends to exclude those who stand outside the historic majority. The white nationalists who detect an unwitting ally in Trump are not deluded.

These are predictable implications of Trumpian populism, not just a worst-case scenario. Francis honestly argued that a ­nonfusionist right would amount to a white identity politics that turns the logic of multiculturalism against the managerial state. Trump probably lacks the theoretical sophistication to appreciate this point. Nevertheless, his statements consistently evoke zero-sum competition among mutually exclusive groups. There is an old belief that naming an evil calls it into being. Trump’s rhetoric threatens to do the same.

As Trump’s critics on both the right and the left learned during the campaign, however, merely enumerating the dangers of Trumpism will not make it disappear. The task is to moderate it where possible and oppose it when necessary. That is where a renovated fusionism can help. Understood as a theory that embraces both the libertarian and traditionalist facets of Western political philosophy, it remains the best available platform for conservatives who hope to remain relevant while resisting cooptation.

Three areas in which fusionism challenges Trumpism stand out. First, the fusionist suspicion of unchecked power and emphasis on constitutionalism provides a necessary counterweight to a president who does not appear to recognize any legal or traditional limits on his power. Liberals and progressives are now rediscovering the wisdom of checks and balances. But it is fusionist conservatives who have consistently argued that restraints on the executive are the virtue of our political system. Trump may be the American Caesar of populist longing. In that case, fusionist conservatives can take their bearings from the example of Cicero, who was willing to cooperate within the law but valued the republic over his own life.

Constitutionalism is not only about preventing the worst. Changes made through the normal legislative process tend to be more popular and longer-lived. One of the great weaknesses of Obamacare was that it was crafted in private and passed by means of procedural shortcuts. Lasting reform or replacement will have to avoid the same defects.

Fusionism offers another lesson in economics. Here it joins libertarianism in opposing the selection of specific winners and losers by the government. This is not simply because arbitrary intervention encourages corruption but also because it is more often based on emotional attachment than economic reality. Democrats squandered millions to promote renewable energy because they dreamed it could supplant fossil fuels. Republicans now want to do the same with coal because mining corresponds to an anachronistic vision of meaningful work.

Nostalgia for the “good jobs” of the past is understandable.[21] The conditions of employment really were better for many Americans when domestic industry had fewer international competitors, fewer women participated in the workforce, and laborsaving technology was less advanced. But no combination of regulatory reform, infrastructure spending, or immigration restriction is going to bring those jobs back. The deal to save a few hundred positions at a Carrier factory in Indiana is just signaling. It may prove politically effective, but it is not a serious answer to structural changes.

From a fusionist perspective, the universal basic income is a more promising response to these changes, which increase rewards for cognitive ability and personal skills while decreasing the value of physical labor. Although Meyer was personally critical of such measures, experience has taught us that it is impossible to sustain a modern democracy without some degree of redistribution. The choice is between outright transfer payments and a farrago of inefficient and ineffective social programs. Writing checks that allow individual persons to make decisions about how to conduct their lives is preferable to further enmeshing them in a degrading and intrusive bureaucracy.

Peter Lawler has criticized such proposals on the ground that they do not supply the dignity of work or provide a structure for the cultivation of stable relationships.[22] There is much truth to these objections. Nevertheless, the insufficiency of one solution does not necessarily mean that a better one is available. The midcentury industrial workplace really did provide a stable and dignified life, especially for men who took pride in their mastery of things rather than facility with numbers or words. Unfortunately, we have no idea how to bring it back.

We also have no idea how to restore a “thick” national identity without employing unacceptably coercive means. It is easy to forget that the common culture of fond memory was made possible by policies that included the legal suppression of America’s largest immigrant culture (the German-speaking Midwest) during the First World War, and mass conscription and a virtual takeover of the economy and media during World War II. The comfortable sense of belonging many Americans enjoyed half a century ago was also buttressed by the formal and informal exclusion of black people from the mainstream of American life. These were bad measures that no one seriously proposes to revive.

Our patriotic future

We have little alternative, then, to accepting what Levin calls a deconsolidated society. Under these conditions, fusionist principles of federalism and subsidiarity are preferable to wishful thinking about moral and cultural consensus. The truth is that virtue must be cultivated in religious institutions, local communities, and families if it is to be cultivated at all. We need to make it easier for these groups to operate according to their visions of the good.

Accepting deconsolidation does not mean abandoning patriotism. On the contrary, the rituals of American civic life are important ways of establishing the connections between strangers that distinguish a pluralistic society from a collection of mutually hostile tribes. When we sing the national anthem or recite the pledge of allegiance, for example, we assert what we have in common with the people with whom we disagree.

These rituals are not affirmations of philosophical arguments: their words celebrate a specific ethos and particular history. But they have become tributes to an open community that can accommodate anyone willing to adopt that ethos and history as their own. The idea that immigrants can and do become Americans by choice is not so bizarre as opponents of immigration on cultural grounds suggest. It is what allowed a descendent of Jewish immigrants like Frank Meyer to become a champion of the American regime.

Few people will make that choice, however, if they believe it is impossible or unnecessary. That is why education remains a basic conservative task. For all their problems, the diversity of America’s schools and colleges continue to allow a “creative minority” to challenge both the identity politics that presents ethnicity as destiny and the technocratic assertion that those with proper skills don’t need a country. Although there is plenty to criticize on the modern campus, unselective anti-intellectualism actually promotes the fracturing of America.

We can be optimistic about the prospects for a relatively inclusive patriotism without fooling ourselves about what public ritual, civic education, and similar strategies are likely to accomplish. Although we can hope to promote mutual respect among fellow citizens, the deep sense of solidarity craved by the new nationalists of the right and the old social democrats of the left is probably out of our grasp. In the ’60s, Meyer described a politics that rejected the authority of collective abstractions like society and the nation as a “politics of the impossible.”[23] Today it is a form of sobriety.

But skepticism about the possibility of radical transformation is part of the conception of the person that stands at the heart of fusionism. As embodied beings, our aspirations are always limited by the constraints of physical nature. As social beings, we are torn between the false freedom of the unencumbered self and the immersion of individuality in the collective or tribe. Tradition teaches that virtue consists in learning to balance ourselves between these poles and that governments are more often harmful than helpful in this enterprise—particularly when they become too distant from the people they rule.

That is the fusion we need to defend in perilous times. If doing so means entering the wilderness while Trump practices a style of rule more suitable to a Caesar or a pharaoh than to a president, so be it. In the Bible, waters sometimes rise to swallow up the despotic and depraved. Let us hope the rest of us are not drowned along with them. ♦

Samuel Goldman is assistant professor of political science and executive director of the John L. Loeb Jr. Institute for Religious Freedom at the George Washington University. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not imply endorsement by the university.



[1]      Leo Strauss, “Letter to the Editor: The State of Israel,” Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, ed. Kenneth Hart Green (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997), 413–14.

[2]      Frank S. Meyer, In Defense of Freedom and Related Essays (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1996), 80.

[3]      Murray N. Rothbard, “Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué,” Modern Age 25, no. 4 (1981): 352–63.

[4]      Meyer, “Freedom, Tradition, Conservatism,” In Defense of Freedom, 11.

[5]      Ibid., 12.

[6]      Ibid., 13.

[7]      Meyer, “Western Civilization: The Problem of Political Freedom,” In Defense of Freedom, 224.

[8]      Russell Kirk, “Prescription, Authority, and Ordered Freedom,” in What Is Conservatism? (1964; repr., Wilmington: ISI Books, 2015), 39.

[9]      Rothbard, “Frank S. Meyer,” 362.

[10]     Meyer, “Western Civilization: The Problem of Political Freedom,” In Defense of Freedom, 219–20.

[11]     Ibid., 223.

[12]     See Daniel McCarthy, “What Does ‘Fusionism’ Really Mean?,” American Conservative, March 21, 2013, and Paul Gottfried, “Toward A New Fusionism,” American Conservative, October 17, 2012,

[13]     Samuel Francis, “Beautiful Losers: The Failure of American Conservatism,” Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (Columbia: University of Maryland Press, 1993), 225.

[14]     See Francis, “Message from MARS: The Social Politics of the New Right,” Beautiful Losers, 75.

[15]     Ibid., 77.

[16]     Ibid.

[17]     Yuval Levin, “The New Republican Coalition,” National Review, November 17, 2016,

[18]     Stephen Moore, “Welcome to the Party of Trump,” National Review, December 1, 2016,

[19]     “HRC Paid Speeches,” Wikileaks,

[20]     See J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (New York: Harper, 2016); and Margaret Sullivan, “Chris Arnade Photographs the ‘Back-Row Kids.’ He Knew They Could Elect Trump,” Washington Post, December 11, 2016,​/2016/12/11/9c65f31a-b723-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?utm_term=.8216c5e89377.

[21]     See Michael Lind’s sober analysis in “Can You Have a Good Life if You Don’t Have a Good Job?” New York Times, September 16, 2016,

[22]     Peter Augustine Lawler, “Our Country Split Apart,” National Affairs, no. 30 (Winter 2017): 10–11.

[23]     Frank S. Meyer, “The Politics of The Impossible,” The Conservative Mainstream (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1969), 235. 

What does it mean to be conservative in the year of Trump, a discussion

Being Conservative in the Year of Trump: A Modern Age Discussion and Reception

Join Modern Age editor Peter Augustine Lawler in Washington, D.C., on May 24 for a discussion with other Modern Age contributors of what it means to be conservative today. The panel discussion will be followed by a reception. Learn more about and RSVP for this event here

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Complement with other perspectives in this symposium: Patrick J. Deneen on the ghost of conservatism past, Greg Weiner on conservatism’s constitutional moment, Elizabeth Corey on the conservative disposition in a revolutionary age, and Yuval Levin on conservatism in an age of alienation.