The Corner

RE: Coalition-Building

Jim, to my mind the David Brooks column you mention below gets the basic picture wrong. I don’t think the notion of reform conservatism should be contrasted with or opposed to the views of the people Brooks calls the “traditionalists.” As I see it, the basic idea is to apply conservative principles and ingenuity to a broader range of problems than we have been used to thinking about—to think in concrete policy terms about the worries of American families, and offer concrete conservative proposals for reforming our governing institutions. These need to be extensions of conservative successes in the past, like tax and welfare reform: applications of our basic view of the world to the problems of the day. This kind of reformism is the conservative tradition, not a substitute for it. And its aim is not to move conservatives to the center, but to move the country to the right. It is not, to my mind at least, opposed to what Brooks’s “traditionalists” are trying to do, let alone is it trying to exclude social conservatives—as you might imagine, that’s not something Ramesh, or Ross Douthat, or I would want to see.

Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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