Hood analyzes new nationalists for National Review

John Hood’s latest column at National Review Online delves into the beliefs and goals of new nationalists.

[W]hat really frustrates me isn’t the persistence of special pleading across shifts in partisan control — which is, as Burke pointed out, a predictable manifestation of unalterable human nature. It’s that a new cadre of conservative activists are invoking Edmund Burke’s name and legacy as they seek to defend Donald Trump, champion his policies, and construct a new political movement, a conservative version of nationalism, in the president’s political wake.

Burke is a foundational thinker in the conservative tradition. Books by or about him can be found on the bookshelves of the vast majority of conservatives with whom I’ve worked over the past three decades, alongside works by or about Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Adam Smith, the American Founders, and a wide range of other foundational thinkers. It’s a canon that encompasses hopeful free-market economists and pessimistic conservative scribblers. …

… Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, conservatives and classical liberals differed on many things and struggled for ascendancy in politics and ideas. The rise of nationalist populism and centralist progressivism, however, transformed the relationship from one of rivalry to one of at least grudging accommodation if not tacit cooperation against their common foes. By the middle of the 20th century, when the free world faced the twin perils of fascist and communist totalitarianism, the tacit had become the explicit. Amid the wreckage of post-war Europe and in response to the rising Soviet threat, conservatives and classical liberals formed new institutions and alliances. …

… Now, such fusionist thinking is derided as outmoded, incoherent, ineffective, and self-destructive. So-called liberaltarians argue that the natural political and intellectual home of the classical liberal lies with the modern American liberal, the left-wing progressive with whom the libertarian supposedly shares the common values of equality and tolerance. And the new nationalists argue that the future of conservatism lies with populist economics, and with a passionate embrace of the nation-state as the organizing principle of political engagement and civil government.

It is a dramatic moment. Many Americans are frustrated — I get that. I am, too. And trying to fashion new political alliances and institutions must surely be tempting and exhilarating. But I believe both liberaltarianism and conservative nationalism to be doomed enterprises.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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