It is no secret that the Weimarification of American society has resulted in an increasingly prevalent misuse of ideological classifications (fascism, socialism, communism, Marxism, totalitarianism, etc) in our political life. All of these terms have taken on increasingly abstract, nonsensical definitions which stray from their original meanings, and I suspect that in a decade’s time they shall be practically meaningless. But there is another such term, one which is prevalent in my own circles, and likely in yours too: fusionism. I will be the first to admit that I am fond of this word; it is one which I can sling at my intra-conservative opponents as a pejorative without causing them much discomfort, and it’s also one of those words which so perfectly describes those characteristics of the “American conservative movement” so many of us have come to loathe over the years. We are, in a sense, also guilty of linguistic overuse with regard to this term, or with substituting it with what feels like an equivalent buzzword: “movement conservatism”, “the dead consensus”, “Beltway conservatism”, “libertarian conservatism”, “neoconservatism”, “free market fundamentalism”. This is not to say that these substitutions are necessarily accurate or synonymous. Most of them aren’t, yet we throw them into our editorials and manifestos, synthesizing them into hideous, imaginary reptilian mass. I am guilty of this offense just like the rest of you, and in some respects, we don’t have much to be sorry for in the first place. There really is a lizard of terrific proportions roaming about DC, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley, and we are not wrong in our desire to slay it, even if we occasionally exaggerate as to how many heads it has or miscalculate the length of its tail. The aim of this piece, then, is not to defend fusionism but rather to identify and reasonably criticize it. As far as I am concerned, fusionism insufficiently preserves the sanctity of family life, vibrancy of our communities and sovereignty of our nation, therefore making it a failed conservative project not worth holding onto.
The Fusionist Coalition
Naturally, prior to any criticism, we must distinguish between fusionist political philosophy and the old fusionist coalition of the 20th century, as they are related but fundamentally different in nature. I am of the opinion there are far fewer Americans today belonging to the latter group than the former, so it is to this coalition that we must first turn our attention to. You might be familiar with the “three-legged stool” analogy used to refer to this brand of fusionism, where each of the three core components of the fusionist coalition is represented as a stool leg upholding the platform of “American conservatism”. The first leg represented those we would consider to be free marketeers, right-libertarians, economic “neoliberals”, and so on. The second represented anti-communist interventionists, “warhawks”, McCarthyists, “neoconservatives”, etc, and the third leg represented those who we might call traditionalists or social conservatives. Some left-leaning scholars have also referenced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign and suggested that this coalition also included segregationists and their ilk, but in the interests of good-faith towards our fusionist readers, I will not explore this insinuation in this piece. Regardless, these three legs were joined together in the 50s, 60s, and 70s by a diverse array of characters, some of whom have become practically immortalized on the American right like William F. Buckley Jr., Frank Meyer, Harry Jaffa, Milton Friedman, Frederich Hayek, Irving Kristol and Thomas Sowell. Whether or not certain traditionalist conservative figures like Russel Kirk and Leo Brent Bozell Jr. should be included among their ranks is debatable; both first regarded this coalition with much enthusiasm but over time became gradually disillusioned with its libertarian wing.
It is difficult to approximate how much representation each leg of the stool had among the American electorate, but given the popular support for the expansion of the welfare state in the mid 20th century, we can safely presume that the libertarian wing was likely the smallest and that the hawkish and traditionalist wings easily overshadowed it. Although I cannot honestly estimate whether there were more hawkish or socially conservative voters (not to mention the likely massive overlap between the two), the rise of the Moral Majority and religious right in the 80s combined with the ending of the Cold War in the end of that decade (and the growth of non-interventionism in the GOP during the subsequent years following) gives one good reason to assume that social conservatives/traditionalists had the largest representation among voters in the US by the time the fusionist movement gained huge amounts of political power after Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential win. From this, it would follow that the political, legal, economic and cultural victories of the fusionist movement would at the bare minimum be evenly divided among her three legs, though under our system of American democracy, one would rightly reason that traditionalists deserve the biggest slice of the pie. From here we must simply look at the victories and shortcomings of the “American conservative movement” from 1960 to the present day and determine if this lovely alliance was fair.
Who Benefits? I am the Walrus
First, we have Barry Goldwater’s victory in the 1964 Republican primary, which at the time was widely applauded in the circles of all three stools. As you probably know, Goldwater lost to incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in a massive landslide, carrying only a few Southern states and his native Arizona. It isn’t too useful to speculate what a Goldwater presidency might have looked like, but based on the remainder of his career in the US Senate and his libertarian stances on a variety of issues including abortion, Goldwater’s traditionalist backers would most likely have been immensely disappointed. Next is the election of Reagan as governor of California in 1966. While Goldwater may have been a gift to libertarians and hawks, Reagan’s term in the governor’s mansion provided varying degrees of dissatisfaction for all three branches of the movement. Although he campaigned on simultaneously reducing both welfare spending and the burden of government upon Californians, Governor Reagan passed one of the largest tax hikes in the state’s history. He appealed to traditionalists and anti-communists by promoting law and order on university campuses, but also passed significant gun control legislation, signed the nation’s first law legalizing no-fault divorce, and even reluctantly signed legislation that liberalized California’s abortion laws. Reagan later came to regret some of these policies, but overall one gets the feeling that his lengthy political career benefitted some of his supporters much more than others. More on this later. It is not clear whether or not the Nixon administration could be considered a part of this movement, and I am generally inclined to say no, but one could consider the law-and-order politics of the late 60s and early 70s to be a vague victory for traditionalists and anti-communists. The 70s in general did not feature many large victories for the fusionist movement as all three factions were primarily focused on the organizing that would thrust them into power the following decade. I will argue, however, that the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 70s was one of the few triumphs of movement conservatism in that time, and is probably the greatest (perhaps even the only great) victory of the socially conservative leg. Then 1980 comes around, and Washington is flipped upside down by a now extremely well-developed and institutionalized fusionist movement.
I will not dedicate much space in this column to describing the accomplishments of Reagan-Bush; you are all probably quite aware of them. Under these two Republican administrations, the Soviet Union was driven to extinction, our military benefitted from rapid growth in defense funding, and above all else, our economy was liberalized. The free marketeers finally received an immense victory in those years as tax rates fell sharply, huge volumes of regulations were slashed, and the movement of goods, services and people across our continent’s borders was accelerated unlike anything in our nation’s history. I am uncertain if these should be categorized as one massive victory or a series of smaller ones over the span of a few decades, but regardless they are as follows: the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which dramatically decreased federal taxes on incomes (primarily for higher earners), estate taxes, corporate taxes and capital gains taxes; the Tax Reform Act of 1986 which further lowered federal individual income tax rates for wealthy earners and generally flattened the federal tax system, lowering the highest individual rate from 50 percent to only 28; the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed into law by President Reagan, which made it illegal to hire undocumented workers but also legalized millions of illegal immigrants, creating a huge increase in the supply of relatively inexpsneisve labor legally accessible to corporations; the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act signed into law by Bill Clinton which aimed to decentralize the American welfare state and imposed new restrictions on welfare recipients; the Job Creation and Welfare Enhancement Act also signed into law by Clinton which further cut capital gains taxes and placed limits on future regulatory proposals; the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 which repealed much of the Glass-Steagall Act, greatly reducing federal regulation of major American banks; the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, both signed into law by George W. Bush which undid the individual income tax hikes of the Clinton years and lowered taxes on capital gains and dividends income, and was further extended into the Obama years following the 2008 recession; NAFTA, the TPP and other trade deals which eliminated numerous protective barriers between the US and other nations; the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 signed into law by Donald Trump which provided substantial tax relief for high earners, flattened (and effectively lowered) the corporate tax rate to 21%, and liberalized estate tax laws.
The hawks also earned their share of rewards in the decades following Reagan (the Gulf War, NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, US support for the Arab Spring and so on), though the extent to which the original anti-communists might view these as “victories” is rather debatable, and it is safe to say that with the exception of a brief period between 2001 and 2005, the share of actual, non-reptilian American voters who fall into that camp has over time dropped dramatically since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and at this rate is probably outnumbered by the libertarian leg of the stool. And the social conservatives? Well, Reagan made many bold promises regarding the restoration of sound moral values to our nation, some of which were in fact made into legislation in the decades that followed. Chief among these were the Defense of Marriage Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, and the expansion of school choice and charter schools, though the latter victory also belongs equally to the free marketeers. Consider that the first of the three aforementioned triumphs was completely repealed and will likely never return, the second only targeted a small percentage of the millions of abortions that have occurred since Roe, meaning that the only lasting victory afforded to the traditionalist “silent majority” has also coincidentally been free market-oriented, while the other legs of the stool have benefitted much more from conservative gains in political power. Where then, are the advances promised by Reagan, Bush and so many others to their religious supporters? The answer to this question, as we all know by now, comes in the form of judges. We were told that since a value-neutral reading of the Constitution naturally yields conservative results, filling our federal judiciary with originalist and textualist nominees would roll back the judicial legislation of earlier decades and restore Godly virtue in our institutions, or something like that. In some instances, this was a blatantly misleading attempt to remove the responsibility of legislators to promote the values their constituents desired, but in other instances like in the case of abortion laws, such an approach does make sense, at least in theory.
The trouble is that just as free marketeers were the main beneficiaries of fusionist electoral victories, they equally received disproportionate benefits from this new fusionist judiciary. You are likely aware of the many defeats traditionalists have experienced in the courtroom over the past century, but we often understate how influential some of the more recent victories of the other two legs are. There is no better example of this than the Citizens United ruling, which effectively cemented the growing commercial domination of the conservative movement since Reagan. On a more insidious level, much of the legislation pushed through by the neoliberal leg has directly harmed the traditionalist leg, and in some respects is partially responsible for the decline of social conservatives relative to socially moderate market fundamentalists among younger Republicans. From slight changes like the overall increase of the tax rate paid by the lowest income earners and the deductions which they could access under the Reagan years to the more noticeable banking deregulation which later caused massive economic instability, the libcons haven’t just been ignoring the requests of working class socially conservative Republicans, they’ve also been slowly waging a kind of cruel class warfare against them, all while elaborately deluding them with respect to the actual beneficiaries of such policies. Intentional or not, this hollowing-out of Middle America by one particular wing of the “conservative movement” has without a doubt resulted in a quiet but nonetheless monumental demographic transformation of our nation’s political life.
If the three-legged stool was a business arrangement, one would be inclined to think that the businessman representing the traditionalists is practically being robbed, and that he would be an utter idiot if he chose to continue remaining in business with the other two associates. In the 2010s we began to witness the final dissolution of this coalition as traditionalist political organizations and intellectuals gradually distanced themselves from their libertarian conservative and hawkish colleagues (granted, the latter of those two hardly exists outside of DC anyway). The 2016 Trump campaign further pulled many disillusioned morally conservative voters away from the fusionist web, who gladly supported a Republican candidate despite his criticism of globalization, free trade orthodoxy and the influence of multinational corporations, and regardless of the fact that he vowed not to touch Social Security. Trump, of course, did not exactly live up to many of these White working class voters’ expectations, generally governing in line with the consensus of the old coalition, and which perhaps led to his electoral demise four years later in 2020.
More importantly, however, the relationship between most Republican voters and this coalition has generally shifted from an alliance of otherwise separate entities to an ideological amalgamation of the three legs into one, fully cohesive political ideology. In other words, the conservatives of today are not part of a fusionist coalition, but rather subscribe to a unified series of beliefs from each of the legs with an underlying general philosophy.
Fusionism: A Worldview
There is no better summation of this condensed fusionist ideology than the founding document of the Young Americans for Freedom, the Sharon Statement. The statement’s very first affirmation is, “[t]hat foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force”, immediately followed by the proclamation, “[t]hat liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom”. It is unclear whether or not the first statement reveals a subconscious prejudice of the statement’s authors against Calvinists, but what is quite clear is that the different fusionist legs don’t mix together quite as cohesively as Buckley and Meyer might have hoped. One might ask, for example, why a traditionalist would specifically believe that the first and foremost transcendent value is liberty from political authority and not, say, the love of Jesus Christ, or the obeying of the Ten Commandments. The statement continues by praising the virtues of limited government, the market economy, republicanism, and the United States Constitution. Although the ordering of these priorities seems a bit suspect given the composition of the fusionist coalition, there is nothing fundamentally wrong or non-conservative about such principles. At some point, there is a point stating “[t]hat when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation; that when it takes from one man to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both.” This does not seem entirely compatible with the aims and values of the hawkish leg of the stool, so unsurprisingly, they did not mind the expansion of government and the violation of this principle when it suited them. But I digress, if you are a reader of our publication, chances are you are already familiar with the inherent philosophical contradictions of the three-legged stool and the mishmash ideology which proceeded from it. I will reiterate and expand on these contradictions in a moment, but first I’d like to address two underlooked elements of the fusionist ideology’s influence on our political culture, particularly regarding how we address the more practical questions of policy and culture.
First, there is the concept of what some progressive critics refer to as “economism”, which refers to a kind of worldview in which almost all social and even personal matters are primarily viewed through the lens of economic analysis. This naturally includes predominantly financial transactions like the purchase of capital or the selling of stock, but also frequently extends into everything from voting to childcare to religion to aesthetic principles to dietary restrictions to armed conflict, and practically every other subject imaginable. Now, it is perfectly reasonable to assert that all of these things can be viewed from an economic perspective, but whether this is something we ought to pursue is a different matter. There is also the question of the extent to which certain facets of the human condition can be quantified to allow for the sort of objective evaluation economics requires. In general, however, I think that a growing share of conservatives have come to realize the limits of this type of economism, and that there are legitimate concerns about what political philosopher Michael Sandel refers to as the “moral limits of markets”. In other words, it’s okay to examine social phenomena from an economic perspective, but by no means should this view be more important than moral, practical or spiritual considerations as well.
Examples of this kind of economism are remarkably widespread in today’s public discourse. Consider policy proposals on almost any issue from those who tend towards the right side of the political aisle. “Market environmentalism”, “the free market solution to healthcare”, “market reforms in the education sector”, “how the free market can improve voting”, you get the idea. Conservative responses to many of the ailing political, cultural, and even moral controversies of our time have been defined by approaches which prioritize the utilization of free market mechanisms, and relatively limited (if any) state involvement in the matter. One has to wonder, if God forbid we have a Bolshevik revolution in this country, will there be columnists writing in the National Review or Wall Street Journal advocating for a free market solution to avoid being guillotined? On a more serious note, some of the ideas promoted under this context are actually quite good, and can effectively promote a genuine conservative agenda. School choice policies and some of the environmental plans advocated for by groups like the American Conservation Coalition, for example, can effectively utilize the market as a tool to further the health of our society. But on other serious social crises like the opioid epidemic or the decline of traditional marriage, the free market has often presented itself as more of a hindrance than a practical utility.
Truth be told, this leaves us with more questions than it does answers. Why has the practice of economizing matters which are clearly outside of the realm of economics become more and more prevalent over time? On matters where economics is of concern, why do all solutions always have to be “market” oriented, if not more specifically “free market”? In addition to changes in the public’s perception of economics, there are some fairly complex epistemological questions regarding the role of the social sciences in how we perceive the world around us here, enough for a separate article. In the interest of time and clarity then, I will primarily address the former issue.
Two Flavors of Economism
At the start of the 1980s, less than 15% of high school students took an economics class (not counting home economics). By 1990, that number had risen to 44%, and it grew steadily over the coming decades. Some states have even made such classes mandatory, further bolstering this percentage. If you add to this number the students who did not take such courses in high school but took an introductory economics class in college, it seems as though a large majority of Americans with at least some level of educational attainment have taken these basic econ classes. But here things get interesting, because these particular Americans are also more likely to consider themselves conservative when asked about ideology. Further examination will lead readers to another form of economism, this one being even more concentrated among conservative circles than the last. One might ask, “how can more exposure to economic theory result in a more reductive approach to the applications of economics?” The answer to this question can be found by looking at what specifically is taught in most introductory “economics 101” classes. These courses focus on simple microeconomics and primarily rely upon the writings of classical economist Alfred Marshall, with additional influences from other well-known classical figures like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. In the interests of time and the limited prior experience of the students, the models used to describe real-world phenomenon tend to be greatly oversimplified and do not include many factors or externalities to avoid confusing beginners. The extent to which sophisticated graphics are used is also extremely limited, in part because of the aforementioned restrictions but also because of how early the work of many classical economists was (supply and demand curves had not even been conceived before Marshall). To top it all off, subjects critical to understanding contemporary global economics like monopsony, the stickiness of wages, and liquidity traps are at best quickly glossed over, though more likely than not they are completely ignored in the interest of time. On its own, the implications of this aren’t great, but they are not particularly world-shattering either. The trouble is that these classes have a tendency to instill a kind of dogma within students (which is not necessarily the teacher’s fault, it may be a symptom of America’s education failure in general) regarding how economics must be approached. Many of my colleagues are often surprised to hear ordinary conservative Americans respond to pro-family or pro-sovereignty economic plans with fears of great market failures leading to a decline in our nation’s wealth. One look into a basic economics textbook, however, can explain everything.
Or can it? Those sorts of responses might be expected from a somewhat well-off suburban conservative, but what about working class rural conservatives from eastern Kentucky or western Nebraska, who are far less likely to have a college education or to have taken an economics course while in high school? As it turns out, schoolteachers and textbooks aren’t the only ones talking about “basic economics”. One does not have to watch Fox News for very long without an invocation of this kind of economism, and there are countless videos from Prager University explaining how “basic economics” proves the futility of “big government liberal” or “socialist” economic platforms. And these discussions aren’t only limited to one of America’s largest cable news networks and a YouTube channel with nearly 1.5 billion views, they have also seeped into debates between politicians, talk radio shows, and even popular culture. This extremely well-funded effort to insert economism into every possible facet of mass media began decades ago, and is effectively an effort by the libertarian wing of the party to mold the socially conservative working class base, who are generally more moderate on economics, into good, obedient market fundamentalists. Consider, for example, the Tea Party movement of the early 2010s. Here, a number of White working class voters concerned with the power of elites and the changing fabric of American society were convinced to focus their political power on the effort of lowering tax rates for uber-wealthy income earners and corporations, many of whom ironically switched to supporting Democrats less than half a decade later. Instinctively speaking, of course, these people were never amicable to socially moderate fiscal conservatism, and when Trump bombastically offered them a more reasonable sounding alternative, they took it without a moment’s hesitation, though by now it is clear that to some extent, they were duped just as badly as earlier.
This reductionist line of economic thinking is particularly dangerous because of how far it allows one to drift from authentic, tradition-centered conservatism. Many of the assumptions made by the classical and neoclassical models used by economics 101 proponents rely upon an idealistic view of human nature which is well-suited for utopian liberalism, but certainly not for Burkean conservatism. Put aside the behavioral science showing how humans tend to be irrational actors for a second. How can we as conservatives possibly reconcile the belief that man is in a fallen state and depraved in sin with an economic model which suggests that we usually make all the right decisions in life?! Conservatives are not classical liberals, and we should not be tied down to one or two schools of economic thought, especially considering that the beloved Austrian and Chicago schools tend to result in the promotion of value-neutral commercial societies. In practical terms, this approach to economic thinking results in a political order where progressives who come to power are unafraid to use government moralism and economic intervention to further their ideological goals, but social conservatives cannot dare try to do the same for their own agenda for fear of insulting their free marketeer cousins. It is from this tradition that the Kristi Noems and Asa Hutchinsons of our time are conceived, and we cannot be rid of them without completely re-thinking how we teach, propagate, debate and formulate economics.
Idolatry and the American Founding
Economism is, in my personal opinion, the most severe consequence of fusionist political thought upon the modern-day conservative coalition, but there is another extremely common line of thought used by fusionists to lure in support which I would like to address. As patriots, we have a natural admiration for our national identity and mythology, which includes respect for our Founding Fathers from both a cultural and political sense. Unfortunately, this also means that for a certain sector of the populace who aren’t very acquainted with the history of the early United States, the names of the Founders can easily be weaponized in defense of views to which the Founding Fathers themselves have little connection. Progressive thinkers also have a name for this phenomenon, though I dislike it substantially more than the previous: “Founding father worship”. The issue with this term, of course, is that it makes no distinction between a sincere, respectable appreciation of our Founding Fathers’ legacy by honest, God-fearing people and the almost idolatrous fetishization of an ahistorical view of the Founders to try and defend neoliberalism. These are two distinct viewpoints despite the fact that those holding the latter are often able to successfully convince those in the former category that their views are identical.
This fusionist view of the founding is flawed in two regards. First, it mistakenly assumes that the Founders all shared one relatively cohesive and uncontradictory view of political philosophy, that of Lockean liberalism. The truth, however, is that our Founding Fathers often held diametrically opposed views regarding human nature, the role of government, the relationship between church and state, how and when political revolutions ought to occur and what their nature should be, industrialization, the extent to which the state should involve itself in economic affairs, and countless other matters. Some were Anglophiles, others Francophiles, some were Puritans while others were Anglicans or Unitarians or Presbyterians. Naturally, there were points of agreement among these men, chiefly the need for something resembling a republican government in the United States, the importance of common law, and several other features which today are considered integral to American republicanism. There is no reason to suggest, however, that they all shared some sort of Jeffersonian skepticism of political authority which fusionists base their views from.
This brings us to the second matter, which is the insinuation that the Founders would somehow be content with the results of movement conservatism, or at least with the direction in which fusionism has pushed our nation. Disregard the obvious lack of a direct connection between the politics of the late 18th century and an intellectual coalition started in the 1950s for a moment. Do you honestly think that George Washington would be content with our sprawling globalized empire, or with the hyperpartisanship which fusionists like Newt Gingrich bear a good chunk of responsibility for? Would John Adams not faint if he were alive today to witness the total unraveling of our nation’s moral fabric at the hands of secularist Jacobins? Do you believe Alexander Hamilton would jump with joy if he were to find out about the hollowing out of our entire industrial sector? Even Founders like James Madison whose more value-neutral worldview was at least somewhat similar to the fusionists’ devoted economic liberalism would likely be horrified at the sheer commercialization of contemporary American society, and the extent to which multinational corporations influence both our daily lives and republican virtues. Despite my general dislike of him, I particularly pity poor old Thomas Jefferson, who is now almost exclusively quoted to promote an America in which industrial or post-industrial capitalism reigns supreme, a far cry from his dream of a pre-capitalist agrarian idyll.
This line of argumentation is far less common and influential than the others previously mentioned, but I nonetheless thought it might be worthwhile to include in a more general critique. It isn’t as common anymore to see a defense of the professional managerial class where they are compared to Jeffersonian yeomen, and perhaps this sort of attitude is increasingly becoming a relic of the bygone Tea Party age. Still, it is incredibly telling that fusionist popular intellectuals were able to get away with spreading such blatant historical misinformation to our fellow conservatives.
In retrospect, I sometimes feel that in pieces like this one where some element of establishment Republican orthodoxy is challenged, so many bits and pieces of the puzzle remain untouched. We as national conservatives really are dealing with a behemoth of a foe within our own party, one which, as this essay hopefully demonstrates, will not go away in practical terms anytime soon. The notion that President Trump launched a revolution against every facet of fusionist conservatism simply isn’t true, and this extends not only to his shortcomings in office but also to the entire populist conservative base we like to believe propelled him through both the Republican primary and the general election back in 2016.
It’s also critical to stress the fact that fusionists themselves are not some breed of demonic entities who must be purged off of the face of the Earth, they’re human beings. In many cases they are our family, friends, and colleagues. Too often do those in our circles, myself included, lash out violently at those who repeat the slogans of market dogmatism, as if it is their fault that they have been aggressively socialized by the aforementioned mass media complex to believe that Lockean classical liberalism is the end goal of American conservatism. We must remember that although we do have to fight, it should be done with honesty, dignity, and a respect for the Christian virtues, otherwise we will surely perish from the degeneration of our own personal character. I think we should also limit the extent to which we judge the character of past leaders both in and outside of the fusionist coalition. Movement conservatism should not be regarded as an utter failure. After all, it did successfully allow for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and even on the economic front, perhaps it can be argued that the federal government was a greater threat to stable families in those early days than it is now, so in the context of those time monetarist policy was not that bad. In short, the sins of men no longer living should be God’s business, not ours.
The implications going forward are wide ranging, but there are two primary lessons Republicans should learn from their experience in the fusionist coalition.
First, the mixture of clearly incompatible political philosophies should be avoided, as no amount of exorbitant social engineering will ever make them cohesive together. Anglo-American traditionalism and radical atomistic liberalism have proven to be a particularly toxic and ineffective blend, one whose components must be separated from one another as quickly as possible. Given that the original three legged stool was much better than the blended ideology that grew out of it, we should become more open to loose coalitions between political factions, so long as these alliances are fairly designed and allow for a high degree of independence for all parties involved.
Second, we ought to reconsider both how we go about messaging and advertising ourselves to the electorate. If news channels and social media are any sign of what’s to come, populist Republican candidates will likely be attacked by their primary opponents as being “socialists”. The epithet might be used against us even more than it is against Democrats, so we ought to be prepared. “Globalist” is probably the most effective counter-pejorative in this case, and unlike the accusation of socialism, it is actually pretty accurate in describing the views of establishment fusionist conservatives. Other useful terms for us may include that they “hate the traditional American family” and are “selling out our country to China, big tech and big pharma”, which unfortunately also tend to be true statements.
If we are to become the party of America’s forgotten men and women, we also need to think about registering some of those left behind people as Republicans. In recent years we have expanded our efforts at reaching out to disaffected Democrats concerned with the stances their party has taken on cultural issue and globalization, hoping that they will help us shift the tide in electoral contests, particularly in Rust Belt states. A number of these people, referred to as “Devout and Diverse” and “Disaffected Democrats” by the Pew Research Center’s Political Typology Report, have in fact swung towards Trump’s Republican Party. However, there is another group of individuals, those who are almost completely disconnected from our political process, so-called “Bystanders”, that might make a useful addition to the conservative coalition. Members of this relatively young demographic are often born into extreme economic deprivation, growing up in towns in West Virginia or the Mississippi Delta where the median household income barely exceeds $20,000 per year and half the population live below the poverty line. Yet, perhaps because of the lack of material comforts, these Americans tend to greatly value what elements of community and traditional values they can hold onto, making them more conservative than the general electorate on a number of social issues, particularly on matters of human sexuality. A Republican Party which allows for these people to realize their full potential, to live in communities free from the scourge of the opioid epidemic, economic outsourcing and rampant social atomization will be far more successful than the one we have currently. It would be a party that could make Lincoln and Washington proud by rebuilding the United States as not some abstract theoretical conception, but as a home.