The Future of Conservatism: Conflict and Consensus in the Post-Reagan Era came in the mail on Saturday. I’ve only read a few of the essays so far — which are blessedly readable, short and hard-hitting — but I can tell already it’s a great little book. It’s edited by Charles Dunn, co-author of The Conservative Tradition in America, which (as I’ve said before) has never gotten the respect it deserves.
My favorite essay so far is by James Ceaser. He argues that neoconservatives and Christian Conservatives (as opposed to libertarians and traditionalists) need to, indeed must, lead the post-Reagan conservative movement. It’s an interesting argument, but I think he exaggerates the hard distinctions between the four branches of conservatism (libertarians, traditionalists, natural righters and Christian conservatives). I understand that he’s doing so for brevity and clarity’s sake. But it should emphasized that most conservatives can’t be neatly categorized like this. These divisions run among people, but they also divide many conservative hearts. Many Christian conservatives are libertarians on economic issues. Many traditionalists are also deeply religious. Etc. It is only at the extremes of these factions — usually the professional representatives of specific organizations or camps — that conservatives are cleanly one of these things and not the others.
Anyway, good stuff.