Conservatism in the Crisis

Apr 30, 2020

Following the strangely tidy conclusion to their presidential primary, the Democrats are marching in lockstep. This week Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, queen of the #MeToo movement, dismissed an allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden on the basis that the former vice-president had denied it. Al Franken and Brett Kavanaugh would have been glad of the same treatment. Meanwhile the Republicans appear to be trying to fill the role of feuding opposition their rivals have vacated. …

Another querulous Republican faction looks closer to the grain of the crisis. Led by some of the most interesting conservative thinkers, including Yuval Levin and Oren Cass, plus a handful of senators, it rejects Mr Massie’s market fundamentalism and takes a more flexible and positive view of government than most Republicans have since the 1970s.

Mr Cass, who on May 5th will launch an impressive organisation of this dissident faction, called American Compass, would go further. A former policy director for Mr Romney, he describes the crisis similarly as an indictment of an “economic piety” that ignores many values that markets do not capture, including the well-being of American workers and development of future industries. “Supply chains are much more than whoever is promising to make something more cheaply tomorrow,” he says. In an influential book on labour-market reform, he has proposed a range of novel fixes, including wage subsidies and labour unions, and some familiar ones, including more aggressive deregulation than even Mr McConnell might consider feasible. Politics does seem to be moving towards the dissidents.

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