Left and Right

What the Hell Is ‘National Conservatism’ Anyway?

New York Magazine

Earlier this week, the Washington, D.C., Ritz-Carlton hosted the National Conservatism Conference. Organized by Yoram Hazony, the Israeli conservative and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, the three-day gathering was intended to bring together leading right-wingers — Peter Thiel, Tucker Carlson, and Senator Josh Hawley, among others — around the proposition that, in the words of the conference’s website, “the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation.” It was, in other words, an attempt to synthesize some of the disparate strands of Trump-era populism and nationalism into something resembling a coherent — and intellectually respectable — part of the conservative movement.

That goal has, to some extent, been overtaken by other events. On Sunday morning, just a few hours before Peter Thiel called for the government to investigate Google over Chinese espionage in his conference keynote, Trump issued his now-infamous tweets wondering why four nonwhite Democratic congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley — didn’t “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” As a few liberal writers have already pointed out, while Hazony and the other conference organizers did their best to argue that a more culturally traditionalist and nationalistic conservatism is not equivalent to racism, Trump’s behavior has undermined them, and in part overshadowed their attempts to articulate a respectable American nationalism.

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