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The 2016 election laid bare profound but long-hidden ideological divisions among America’s conservative intellectuals.
Some of us heartily supported the Trumpian insurgency. Others reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump. Still others opposed his candidacy, adopted the label “Never Trump,” or even endorsed Hillary Clinton.
Years - Voice - Consensus - Attempt - Consensus
Yet more than two years later, we speak with one voice: There is no returning to the pre-Trump conservative consensus that collapsed in 2016. Any attempt to revive the failed conservative consensus that preceded Trump would be misguided and harmful to the right.
We give credit where it is due: Consensus conservatism played a heroic role in defeating Communism in the last century, by promoting prosperity at home and the expansion of a rules-based international order. At its best, the old consensus defended the natural rights of Americans and the “transcendent dignity of the human person, as the visible image of the invisible God” (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus) against the depredations of totalitarian regimes.
Cold - War - Conservatism - Lodestar - Liberalism
But even during the Cold War, this conservatism too often tracked the same lodestar liberalism did—namely, individual autonomy. The fetishizing of autonomy paradoxically yielded the very tyranny that consensus conservatives claim most to detest.
America’s public philosophy now puts great stock in “the right to define one’s own concept of . . . the mystery of human life,” as Justice Anthony Kennedy, the libertarian conservative par excellence, wrote while upholding the constitutional “right” to abortion. But this vast leeway to discover the meaning of existence extends to destroying the freedom and lives of others (the unborn child’s, in the case of abortion).
Consensus - Lip - Service - Values - Reverse
Yes, the old conservative consensus paid lip service to traditional values. But it failed to retard, much less reverse, the eclipse of permanent truths, family stability, communal solidarity, and much else. It surrendered to the pornographization of daily life, to the culture of death,...
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