Book Review: The Future Of Conservatism

The Future Of Conservatism: Conflict And Consensus In The Post-Reagan Era, edited by Charles W. Dunn

This book is a fascinating example of how it is that political works can become both more relevant and less relevant with the course of time. This particular book was written in the period leading up to the 2008 election, and some of the people who wrote in it would no longer be considered to be conservatives at present because their supposed interest in conservatism was for placement and power that was denied with the rise of Trump and his supporters in 2016 to the present day. In many ways, then, this book is like being in a bit of a time warp, seeking to separate out that which is timeless about what the authors say about the many aspects of the Conservative coalition, while also commenting on what aspects are not timeless (namely the particular people who that coalition supports and the strength of each particular element or the issues that they are most concerned about). If this book is therefore not nearly as timeless as one might hope, it also is worthy as a tale of particular times and the way that political books tend to be of rather limited value once time has passed because it is hard to tell between what lasts and what does not.

This book is a relatively short one at less than 150 pages in length, and it is divided into nine chapters and other materials, by a variety of different authors. The book begins with an introduction by Charles W. Dunn about conservatism being in center stage, which happens from time to time. After that comes an essay by George Nash that discusses the uneasy future of American conservatism (1) and one by James Ceaser that talks about the various branches of conservatism that work more or less in harmony with each other (2), as well as one by George Carey that discusses the irony of conservative success (3).. There is an essay by Harvey Mansfield that pleas for constitutional conservatism (4) , and another by Michael Barone that speculates on the electoral future of conservatism (5). There is an essay on Conservatism, democracy, and foreign policy by Daniel Mahoney (6) that is followed by a call for Christian conservatives to add and not subtract by Marvin Olasky (7). The book then ends with an essay about the movement of pro-family Democrats to Republicans by Allan Carlson (8), virtue conservatism by Peter Lawler (9), and an epilogue by William Kristol on the enduring Reagan, after which there are notes and an index.

When you strip away all of the not very conservative grifters who sought to join the Republican coalition to increase their own power or feather their own bed, what remains is a picture of a diverse group of people who tend to be conservatives. We may consider some of these to be core conservatives, like religious and traditional conservatives, who have a high stake in preserving traditional and religious culture and have nowhere else to go to politically at present or for the foreseeable future. In addition to these we may add to them those who are not really truly conservative but may be allies at particular times or to a particular extent, including pragmatic midwestern conservatives with their penchant for compromise across the aisle, or neoconservatives who support militarism and a big government, albeit one that is intensely hostile to Communism, or libertarians whose morality is not up to snuff but who can at least be trusted to speak out in defense of freedom and liberty. And if conservative victories require coalition building, it is worth remembering that not all members of the coalition are on board with everything that some might want, which is a lesson that has to be periodically learned when electoral victories do not lead to the results that people would want.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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