The Evolution of The GOP: Creating New Species

The aftermath of the Presidential election has brought about an interesting phenomena: the rise of intellectually moderate and reasonable conservatives.  If you recently became interested in politics as I have(say in the last 10 years or so), these breeds of conservatives may be new to you. Lets turn to David Brook’s latest column for a taxonomy of these new species:

Paleoconservatives. The American Conservative has become one of the more dynamic spots on the political Web. Writers like Rod Dreher and Daniel Larison tend to be suspicious of bigness: big corporations, big government, a big military, concentrated power and concentrated wealth. Writers at that Web site, and at the temperamentally aligned Front Porch Republic, treasure tight communities and local bonds. They’re alert to the ways capitalism can erode community. Dispositionally, they are more Walker Percy than Pat Robertson.

Lower-Middle Reformists. Reihan Salam, a writer for National Review, E21 and others, recently pointed out that there are two stories about where the Republican Party should go next. There is the upper-middle reform story: Republicans should soften their tone on the social issues to win over suburban voters along the coasts. Then there is a lower-middle reform story: Republicans should focus on the specific economic concerns of the multiethnic working class.

Soft Libertarians. Some of the most influential bloggers on the right, like Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok and Megan McArdle, start from broadly libertarian premises but do not apply them in a doctrinaire way.

Many of these market-oriented writers emphasize that being pro-market is not the same as being pro-business. Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago published an influential book, “A Capitalism for the People,” that took aim at crony capitalism. Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner does muckraking reporting on corporate-federal collusion. Rising star Derek Khanna wrote a heralded paper on intellectual property rights for the House Republican Study Committee that was withdrawn by higher-ups in the party, presumably because it differed from the usual lobbyist-driven position.

Burkean Revivalists. This group includes young conservatives whose intellectual roots go back to the organic vision of society described best by Edmund Burke but who are still deeply enmeshed in current policy debates….

…Most important, they matured intellectually within a far-reaching Web-based conversation. In contrast to many members of the conservative political-entertainment complex, they are data-driven, empirical and low-key in tone.

They are united more by a style of feedback and mutual scrutiny than by a common agenda. Some politically unorthodox people in this conversation, such as Josh Barro of Bloomberg View, Meghan Clyne of National Affairs and Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, specialize in puncturing sentimentality and groupthink.

Although the nomenclature is clunky, Brooks has done a good job categorizing these new thinkers. My hope is they can become the new intellectual backbone of a more reasonable conservative party. Perhaps the sinking ship can be salvaged after all.

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3 Responses to The Evolution of The GOP: Creating New Species

  1. Jarret R. says:

    By the way, I can’t recommend Robin’s work enough, especially his brilliant expose of conservatsim, The Reactionary Mind: I especially like his reinterpretation of the so-called Burkean predilection for “tradition” “order” and “stability” as actually stemming for a deeply-held conservative tendency towards radicalism as a defence against perceived social inertia.

  2. Jarret R. says:

    Interesting claims by Brooks here. If you want to read a fascinating response to Brooks’ column, check out this link to Corey Robin’s blog:
    Robin, a political scientist, is one of the leading intellectual Liberal thinkers of the day, and does a fantastic job of identifying the serious flaws behind associating Burke and his followers with a reverence for “tradition.”

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