The future of the right

Ross Douthat made some points in his latest column that have been rattling around less eloquently in my head.

Why Christians might still choose to support Trump over Clinton (though I will not vote for either):

Asking Christian conservatives to accept a Clinton presidency is asking them to cooperate not only with pro-abortion policy-making, but also their own legal-cultural isolation. If you can’t see why some people in that situation might persuade themselves that Trump would be the lesser evil, you need to work harder to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes.

On the Trumpian right:

America needs a religious right. Maybe not the religious right it has; certainly not the religious right of Carson and Falwell Jr. But the Trump era has revealed what you get when you leach the Christianity out of conservatism: A right-of-center politics that cares less about marriage and abortion, just as some liberals would wish, but one that’s ultimately farmore divisive than the evangelical politics of George W. Bush.

When religious conservatives were ascendant, the G.O.P. actually tried minority outreach, it sent billions to fight AIDS in Africa, it pursued criminal justice reform in the states. That ascendance crumbled because of the religious right’s own faults (which certain of Trump’s Christian supporters amply display), and because of trends toward secularization and individualism that no politics can master; it cannot and should not be restored.

But some kind of religious conservatism must be rebuilt, because without the pull of transcendence, the future of the right promises to be tribal, cruel, and very dark indeed.

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2 comments

  1. That last line nails it. I have been thinking about the transition beyond tribalism in Charlemagne, and the transition beyond religious factionalism within the early Modern Liberal political arrangements as a means of (at least temporarily) transcending irreconcilable religious factionalism; without a horizon to make the many one, the center will not hold. There must be some central Liberal cultural tradition that all parties can sign on to, beyond the plurality of communities: it cannot simply be a common acceptance of procedural concerns. Why then commit to the procedures? There must be a shared reason, one that cannot be legislated for, but which must be seen by remembering, and by education. When I get to part five of my recent series, I hope to get to these things.

  2. That will be fascinating. I am far from an expert in political philosophy, but John Rawls tries to address this issue in what he says is a Kantian way with his idea of public reason. I like his idea of an overlapping consensus in which all parties can agree to the principles of justice (basic liberties; inequalities allowed on upon certain fair conditions), even if they agree to it coming from different comprehensive doctrines.

    At the same time, he says that his theory of justice assumes a liberal political framework. So it runs into the problem that you point out: why commit to the procedures? Why assume that framework?

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