Trump broke the Republican party. That’s a good thing.

For many across America, Donald Trump was an unexpected phenomenon. On the political right, reactions ranged from fervent acceptance to utter rejection. A considerable percentage of conservatives were put off by the man himself, even if they agreed with his policies. The Capitol riots on January 6th proved to be the breaking point for many. In short, Donald Trump fractured the American conservative movement. And we on the right should be thankful that he did.

Before Trump was elected the American right was an ungainly union of social conservatives, classical liberals, and right-libertarians. It was an alliance born of opposition to the Roosevelt years and the Cold War. But without the spectre of global communism to serve as an adhesive, the movement has been slowly unraveling for at least two decades. Donald Trump was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Within intellectual circles, this fissure was clearly visible by 2019.  In that year, the journal First Things published “Against the Dead Consensus”, a manifesto of sorts advocating a new direction for American conservatism, commonly labeled the New Right.  Throughout that summer one of its authors, Sohrab Ahmari, sparred on social media with David French, an archetypal Republican of the classically liberal old guard.  Their interactions gained considerable attention from across the conservative movement.

In the wake of the former Republican consensus, there is something new on the horizon. It is not yet a cohesive movement, but rather an intellectual and political trend. The New Right breaks with traditional American conservatism in its suspicion of or outright hostility towards libertarianism. New Right economic ideas, though not opposed to the free market, do support government regulations and controls. This is coupled with staunch social conservatism.

Traditional Republicans have often been unwilling to take decisive action against progressives. This is not so with the New Right, which seeks to take a more active approach in resisting the social changes which have been underway over the last few decades. Rather than attempt to merely conserve, the New Right seems more willing to outline and fight for its own vision of the American future.

Much of the Republican establishment is still closely tied to the ideals it has been preaching for decades; rampant individualism, corporate deregulation, limited government, and at least a conciliatory nod to traditional values. This is no longer enough for the new generation on the Right. They have seen the devastating effect caused by the collapse of traditional economic structures, social institutions, and values. Many of the leading voices among the New Right are practicing Christians and Jews and this is reflected in traditional social policies but also in an increased willingness to trend towards an economic centrism influenced by the Mosaic law, the exhortations of Jesus, and Catholic social teaching.

Though they are not yet united under a common banner, a  number of publications, political analysts, scholars, and politicians have taken up the values and ideas of the New Right.  The challenge then, is developing support among Republican and Independent voters, particularly among Blacks and Hispanics who voted for Donald Trump.

It is possible that the increasingly progressive policies espoused by elite liberal institutions on either coast and taken up by the Democratic establishment have become increasingly out of touch with Hispanic and Black voters, especially since both groups tend to be more religious than the suburban Whites who have been flocking to the progressive ideology of mainstream college campuses. 

The best chance for growth among these demographics and the maintenance of the support of rural Whites is understanding that the traditional laissez-faire, libertarian mantra is not what people want or need. These are the communities that have reaped the least from the increasingly globalized American economy. The outsourcing of traditional jobs has ravaged both inner cities and rural communities. These are also the communities which have found themselves increasingly at odds with the secularism and progressivism which have gripped either coast. 

Trump’s strong support has also shown how out of touch establishment Republicans are with their voting base. There is incredible room for growth for New Right Republicans who resist the establishment to support their constituents. Grassroots activism coupled with unorthodox politicians and a strong intellectual movement could exert significant influence on the Republican party.

There is still a lot to be seen when it comes to the future of American conservatism. But the potential exists for a rebirth of sorts, a reordering of the movement. We shall have to wait and see.