Sean Illing, at Vox, interviewed conservative pundit Charlie Sykes. Sykes has just started a new conservative web site that aims to publish “independent, non-Trumpian conservative voices … thoughtful, nontribal conservatism”. One bit rang a little bell with me.
How can conservatism as a viable political philosophy survive this era? What does it have to become?
I honestly do not know the answer to that question. I think it’s going to take a very, very long time for conservatism to wipe the stain of Trumpism off — and it may not be able to. In the long term, I think conservatism will always have a place as a moderator of radical change. Its real heart and soul is in reacting to destabilizing changes, as opposed to being a mainly positive ideology.
All through it, Sykes sounds very pessimistic about the future of rational, principles-based conservatism. And describes his new venture as a “leap of faith”.
But I suspect that the whole project of creating a conservative intellectual infrastructure might have run its course. I hope I’m wrong about that, but I’m just not sure. Maybe the one good thing about the current mess is that it’s forcing conservatives to rethink their dogmas and really question what’s going on.
Whatever form of conservatism emerges out of this will not be the conservatism of Ronald Reagan or the libertarianism of Milton Friedman. It will look different and hopefully be more responsive to the actual needs of the real world, without the sort of ugly bigotry we’re seeing now. It’s also possible that the conservative movement and the GOP will just become a white-identity party, in which case I think we’re doomed.
That seems to be the most likely course, no?
I think so, but we’re hoping at the Bulwark to stand in opposition to this and say, “We’re not going along for this.” We’re hoping to salvage what we can, because the next couple of years are truly pivotal, and we need all the rationality we can get.
If I was as pessimistic about something as Sykes seems to be, I don’t know if I’d start a new business founded on it.