Posts in politics
Notes on National Conservatism: A Rethink or Rehash?

Last week’s National Conservatism conference was billed by its organizer, Yoram Hazony, as a “big tent” event for conservatives to coalesce around a new vision of American nationalism. But after two days of vigorous discussion, the only thing that clearly united attendees was their general contempt for the left.

If anything, the conference underscored the irreconcilable divisions in the modern conservative movement. Depending on who was speaking, “national conservatism” entailed either transcending U.S. imperialism (Tucker Carlson) or reasserting our national interests abroad (John Bolton); rejecting libertarian economics (J.D. Vance) or embracing Calvin Coolidge-style laissez-faire (Amity Shlaes); pluralism with respect to traditionalist communities (Rusty Reno) or assimilation to the national culture (Amy Wax).

It’s said that the conservative coalition is a three-legged stool supported by war hawks, business elites, and the Christian right. If so, the National Conservatism conference represented each leg taking turns proclaiming itself the true spokesman of American nationalism while attempting to sweep a different leg away. Little was said about what would support the stool should any leg be removed. Entreaties to national solidarity hold no weight on their own.

Yet this may be a case where diversity is our strength. At the very least, the conference provided a useful venue for frank and open ideological reassessment of many conservative sacred cows. From my vantage point, a few patterns emerged that point to a viable vision of national conservatism in the areas of economics, federalism, and culture (and foreign policy, which is not my wheelhouse). The only question is whether it can gain traction.

Read the rest at the Niskanen Center.

Podcast: Explaining the Rural-Urban Political Divide

Our geographic divides are central to contemporary politics, including the election of Donald Trump. Election maps show dense liberal cities in a sea of sparsely-populated Red, advantaging Republicans in our geographic electoral system. Why are Democrats concentrating in cities?

Jonathan Rodden finds increasingly concentrated left parties around the world, disadvantaging liberal cities. It started with unionized industrial railroad hubs but accelerated with the changing cultural values of the party’s new coalitions. Will Wilkinson finds urban and rural areas are becoming economically and psychologically distinct, with cities concentrating those open to new experience and working in the technology-driven economy and rural areas retaining those averse to social and economic change.