The Corner

Politics & Policy

What the Right Is For

Over at First Things today, a diverse group of serious social conservatives has posted a statement about the future of the right that’s worth your while. They differ among themselves about Donald Trump, but they are in agreement that what comes after Trump can’t be a return to what came before him on the right, and that it must involve a commitment to family, faith, work, community, and country.

It’s a promising and heartening statement of principles. And it points to an important fact about the various divisions and distinctions on the right that can easily be obscured by the huge ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question about Trump that now distracts everyone from everything. In the decade and more before 2016, some conservatives had begun expressing dissatisfaction with a Republican Party that had lost itself in tired, libertarian slogans, and that too often offered only rote repetitions of the ends of Ronald Reagan’s sentences without much thought to how or why they started. We thought the party had lost its sense of the essence of American life, and that it offered too little of substance to help working families. It had exhausted its spirit and its agenda, and had not found a way to revitalize.

I think Donald Trump is the culmination of that exhaustion—its living embodiment as an elderly, exploitative narcissist who appeals to voters’ resentments but not their aspirations, who gives the appearance of intense activity while achieving very little, and who is ultimately unfit to govern. Some of my friends think Trump is actually the solution to that exhaustion—that by shattering the old shibboleths he means to force a necessary reckoning and is achieving what others couldn’t. That’s a serious difference of opinion, but it also masks a deeper agreement that the status quo that preceded 2016 was not worthy or sustainable and that (especially given the growing perversity of the left) the right in America needs to recover its commitment to the foundations of the good life—family, community, faith, work, and country—and to protect and reinforce those through a politics rooted in the ends articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the means put forward in the Constitution. Whether Trump advances or retards that cause is an important source of division at this point. But that this should be our cause is a more important source of agreement in the long run.

To be critical of Donald Trump is not to yearn for what preceded him, and to be supportive of him is not to be content with what he offers. There is more to be sought and worked for. And this statement offers an appealing example of what that could involve.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

Most Popular


The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More

Gender Dissenter Gets Fired

Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More