The question on the table right now seems to be: is it still possible, in the modern age, to have a common-good conversation? Or is a never-ending war over resources and cultural space (in which each sub-group picks its champion and hopes, “Hunger Games” style, for the biggest share it can get) now the whole of our political life?
Conservatism’s allergy to victimhood and class politics has left us with some electoral weaknesses Trump has skillfully exploited over these past few months. Some of our voters want to be “championed” in the same way they see Democratic constituencies championed. In a way this is understandable, because it’s fairly obvious that political patronage has been efficacious for some of these groups, securing them goods, benefits, and protections Trump’s supporters would like for themselves.
In a cynical age, it can be hard to look beyond that squabble over resources. I recommend David Frum’s much-discussed essay on the future of conservatism for anyone who wants a good, hard look at the world through the eyes of a conservative who has evidently succumbed to a “Hunger Games” view of politics.
Over the past two decades, Frum has passed through both paleoconservatism and neoconservatism, bitterly rejecting both in very public fashion. Now he appears to be tired of thinking about the common good. In an analysis more reminiscent of a liberal Marxist, he looks at the future and sees endless class warfare, and a never-ending zero-sum negotiation over goods and privileges. Is this dystopian vision really our future? It could be, if the fusionist alliance cannot now be saved.