The Biggest Threat to Conservatism? The New Right.

Conservative activist Charlie Kirk applauds as J.D. Vance shakes hands with Sen. Josh Hawley at a campaign rally on May 1, 2022, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

For decades, the nemesis of conservatism was big government conservatives, most of whom described themselves as moderate Republicans. They compromised with liberals to block many conservative policies such as controlling federal spending and downsizing the federal government. On top of that, they were the leading voices in the conservative movement arguing for accommodating the social liberalism of progressivism. It was this faction of the GOP that failed to stop the rise of progressivism. It was not Reagan conservatism, but the version espoused by George W. Bush and other moderates. 

But today, some on the New Right blame Reagan’s philosophy of limited government and economic freedom as being too “weak” to stop the progressive left. Some even advocate the very same big government policies that were responsible for the disunity and failure of conservative policies in the first place.

Why would those on the New Right intentionally mislead people about the reasons why conservatism “failed?” 

The short answer is that they want a big government of their own. Some even want to use “progressive” means to achieve conservative ends. They are jettisoning the traditions of limited government and economic freedom because they are no longer really conservatives in the American sense, but nationalists and statists dedicated to creating an alternative style of big government to achieve culturally conservative ends. They favor empowering and using government to ban socially liberal practices, rewarding supporters with federal aid and programs, punishing private individuals and companies with punitive legal and federal action, restricting free speech and expression with which they disagree, and supporting industrial and trade policies that increase the reach of federal power over the economy. 

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