Shermichael Singleton and Quardricos Driskell, The Hill, June 18, 2017
Often the result of intellectual neglect that repels pragmatism and rationality, 21st century political conservatism is dogmatic in its current form. This current form of political conservatism fails to consider the various ways America’s future is shaped by multiculturalism and globalization. Furthermore, it forsakes key principles, such as diversity in thought and individualism, and is thus stuck in a time that has long past.
The populist rhetoric of the day has become synonymous with Americanism, such as the context in which President Trump stated, “From this moment on, it’s going to be America first.” While we agree with America prioritizing its own interests first, the political perspective that runs the undercurrent to Trump’s “America first” refrain is problematic. It defers to an isolationist foreign policy strategy that makes America less competitive on the global stage.
Many people associate conservatism with popular terms like “right wing” or more recently “alt-right,” and while they shouldn’t be faulted for doing so, such splitting terms are regrettably an accurate portrayal of the current Republican Party. This leaves us wondering with some proponents of conservatism and even some of its detractors, asking ourselves frequently: is conservatism what it could be and should be?
To put it simply, we don’t think it is.
Rational conservatism involves being informed both by empirical facts and logic. We should base our principles on those grounds, to eventually make or influence policy that leads to the benefit of everyone. Instead, conservatives have relied on antediluvian wisdom and antics that have been passed down through culture and tradition as the governing force of our ideology. Here, modernity is rejected despite our living in a society that is more diverse and globally connected than it has been at any other time in our history.
Many conservatives have rightly advocated for a party that embraces minorities, yet this is a nearly impossible task when our party includes people such as Jared Taylor, a leading alt-right thinker and editor of the white nationalist website American Renaissance. As well-meaning is this inclusive thinking, it is paradoxical because we cannot seek to embrace minority groups while also embracing extreme nationalistic themes — as President Trump did as a candidate — and expect growth as an ideology or as a party.
When the American Renaissance’s Taylor stated in an interview with Vox that the alt-right believes that white Americans should be racially conscious and “that white Americans, as whites, have collective interests that are legitimate,” his sentiments aren’t rooted in conservatism. Instead, they are deeply rooted in hate and ignorance, and lack the sophistication and intelligence necessary to drive a productive political ideology that will shape policies that will move the United States forward. For the rebirth of a new conservatism movement, we must reject the alt-right’s hatred and language in our narrative. No principles, outreach or personalities will revive rational conservatism until conservatives demonstrate a united front against such odious rhetoric.