January 29, 2007

Re: Another Brand is Proposed

Justin Katz

Marc notes the latest in modified conservatism, put forward by the Hudson Institute's John Fonte (director of the institute's Center for American Common Culture). The piece strikes me — to be honest — as the latest parry in the somewhat ridiculous battle over conservatism that the Republicans' ineptitude has ussured in — the latest attempt to declare, "my conservatism is the conservatism!" Fonte asks, "what stirs the blood?" And his answer is, essentially, nationalism.

Well, to each his own, I suppose, but I think Fonte greatly overestimates the degree to which the field of self-identifying conservatives is united in the prioritization of "American national cohesion." To me, conservatism represents a broad philosophy, describing a temperament and a strategy for deriving core beliefs. If that all boils down to my country's "right to concentrate [my] affections," then my first reaction is to assume that I've been played.

I will credit Fonte with creating a reasonable statement of principles under which conservatives of various stripes could unify. However, if in his construction he hopes to stack the deck in favor of his own colors, then I'd suggest that it is as doomed as any explicit and intellectual attempt to offer a universal conservatism that sublimates more precise — and therefore less encompassing — definitions.