The conservative civil war won't change anything

Matthew Continetti recently identified four somewhat overlapping but still recognizably distinct tendencies within the post-Trump American right. First there are Jacksonian populists who occasionally shun GOP economic orthodoxy and identify America’s strength with a kind of neo-backwoods frontiersmen mentality exemplified by figures as disparate as Sarah Palin and Ross Perot. Then there are today’s paleos, opponents of the post-Cold War global order who have carried Pat Buchanan’s cause into the 21st century. Continetti identifies Tucker Carlson as its most influential exponent. The group he calls the reformcons share some, if not all, of the paleo skepticism of free-market absolutism, but they are more likely to use their library voice (and graphs). Finally, there are the post-liberals, reactionaries who believe that what we used to call “the West” took a wrong turn somewhere between 13th-century France and the present. What they all have in common is varying degrees of hostility to both the tactics and the animating principles of the old fusionists.

It is worth pointing out that a good portion of what remains of the institutional right in America does not belong to any of the above-mentioned factions. At established conservative publications such as National Review, there are still fossilized remains of fusionism as it existed in 1980 or even 1964, people who sincerely believe that we are only one more founding fathers quote or Koch Brothers-sponsored Tocqueville seminar away from getting rid of the New Deal. There are also hardcore libertarians who seem constitutionally incapable of recognizing that every major development in American politics in their lifetimes has gone their way as both of our major parties have united behind neoliberal economics and a program of gradually expanding social license. Last of all, there are the professional Never Trumpers, the civility mavens and decency fiends whose sole purpose in our political discourse is to decry the unprecedented wickedness of Trump. These are many of the writers associated with The Bulwark and conservatives at mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Post.

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