Magazine February 10, 2020, Issue

Toward a Conservative Institutionalism

(Tom Brenner/Reuters)
The elite needs tests of character, not just tests of merit

What does it mean to live in a populist age? Above all, it means that a broad swathe of the public is deeply skeptical about the merit and legitimacy of the people in power throughout our society. And without question, the United States and much of the rest of the West are now in the midst of such a crisis of legitimacy.

At first glance, democratic societies such as ours seem like they should be the least troubled by demands for legitimacy. Their institutions wear their claims to valid authority on their sleeves. Elected governments derive their just powers from the

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

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