Writing in the conservative journal Modern Age, Samuel Goldman counsels fellow conservatives to move with extreme caution in the Age of Trump:
Conservatism does have to adapt if it is to survive the Age of Trump. But a conservatism that panders to populist fantasies and embraces the morality of professional wrestling is not worth saving. One place to start rebuilding amid the ruins is a return to the blueprint developed by political theorist Frank Meyer as the modern conservative movement was first taking shape. “Fusionism” is part of the conservative past. But it may also be the future.
Fusionism, as you probably know, is the concept that united the libertarian Right and the traditionalist Right in the 1950s. It found a way to accommodate the small-government/pro-market beliefs of libertarians with the concern for virtue and social order among traditionalists. Ronald Reagan was the ultimate fusionist conservative candidate.
Goldman delivers a good basic explanation of fusionism (which readers new to the term will recognize as mainstream American conservatism of the last half-century), and contrasts it to Trumpian populism. He notes fusionism’s failures, and concedes that however crude Trumpism may be, it didn’t come from nowhere. Yet he believes that Trumpian populism does not provide any kind of solution to the problems fusionism has failed to resolve. Excerpt:
[T]he insufficiency of one solution does not necessarily mean that a better one is available. The midcentury industrial workplace really did provide a stable and dignified life, especially for men who took pride in their mastery of things rather than facility with numbers or words. Unfortunately, we have no idea how to bring it back.
We also have no idea how to restore a “thick” national identity without employing unacceptably coercive means. It is easy to forget that the common culture of fond memory was made possible by policies that included the legal suppression of America’s…