Politics and Public Opinion

How should the conservative movement evolve?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Writing in his blog late last week, Ross Douthat favorably referenced AEI’s Jim Pethokoukis and Ramesh Ponnuru as policy entrepreneurs. The most interesting insight in Douthat’s piece, however, was this:

Every battle within the G.O.P. tends to be explained in moderate-vs.-conservative terms, and when the subject of policy innovation comes up it’s usually framed as a matter of sensible centrists trying to push their ideas against an intransigent right-wing base. But financial reform is just one of the many areas where the divide might be aptly described as a “donorist” (to borrow Martin’s phrase) versus “populist,” and where the party’s rank-and-file and their tribunes might actually be more receptive to new policy ideas than the self-described moderates who often write the party’s biggest checks.

Douthat’s main point is that while conservatives have shown some willingness to compromise on social issues, the conservative economic platform is still stuck in 1980 because that’s exactly where prominent party donors want it to be. This is a losing strategy.

But one wonders what a winning strategy would be. Conservatism is about not changing. It’s about keeping traditional social structures intact and adhering to long-held mores and customs. And these long-held mores and customs are resilient because they resonate with human nature. A policy revolution, while nice in theory, will likely require conservatives to give up that very thing that makes them conservative – the intransigence of principle that proves out again and again despite repeated bouts with its challengers.

Much more work needs to be done on this issue, but I, for one, am looking forward to hearing two of the brighter minds in conservatism spar about how the movement should evolve. On Wednesday at 6:30 at AEI at an American Enterprise Debate, Tevi Troy and Pete Wehner will debate the path necessary for conservatism’s comeback. Those interested in the future of conservatism should definitely tune in.

Discussions like these are the green shoots of revival in a robust kind of conservatism. Let’s hope they continue to grow.

6 thoughts on “How should the conservative movement evolve?

  1. perhaps as important a question is – does the Conservative movement want to govern – an electorate – that is not as Conservative ?

    that’s a serious question. You can have a philosophy – but the bigger question is how does your philosophy jell with the electorate whom you would seek votes from?

    If your principles are such that you cannot compromise them, then are you really interested in governing?

  2. What I – feel – is that people who write like Daniel really just want us to be sheepish – afraid of the visual media.

    Here’s some questions a leader should ask: Is there such a thing as a homosexual? When does life begin? Is it good and useful – to the poor – for government to give money to the poor? Is there really evidence for evolution? Or, are people really just afraid to question it?
    Should we only teach the Atheist religion in our public schools?

    I’d rather conservatives lead than govern.

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