Fusionism—a political synthesis which stresses the compatibility of libertarian freedom with traditional moral values—faces an identity crisis. Political philosopher and one-time Communist Frank Meyer conceived fusionism after World War II, as well as its corresponding political coalition, which he compared to a three-legged stool. Fusionism committed to a muscular foreign policy, social and moral traditionalism, and free markets. Practically, President Reagan masterfully wielded the sword of fusionism and with it slayed the dragon of Soviet Communism.
Fusionism has a venerable history, and so we owe the concept a debt of gratitude. But it’s time to put it out to pasture, for the good of America. Because right now, the self-proclaimed and doctrinaire fusionists—so-called respectable, non-icky NeverTrump conservatives —more resemble Japanese holdouts than they do serious right-wing intellectuals.
The Right’s greatest strength should be its political flexibility in the face of changing conditions; true conservatism is not rigid adherence to policy prescriptions in spite of changing circumstances; rather, it is the prudent application of timeless moral truths to the peculiar conditions of one’s own unique moment in history. Fusionists, like the marooned and isolated Japanese soldiers who didn’t get word that the war had ended, are allergic to reality; they refuse to accept that their preferred policies—which they mistake for always-and-everywhere-true philosophical tenets—no longer reliably secure the common good and individual human flourishing.
This is hardly surprising in a sovereignty-sapping, globalized world of free-speech-hating tech monopolies, a rising China, anarchy on the southern border, a growing and anti-constitutional administrative state, and familial breakdown caused by drug addiction, joblessness, and spiritual decay. Instead, they desperately and sadly cling to an old paradigm no matter what is happening in the world around them. They seem to be fighting a war on behalf of a Republican Party that no longer exists, at the rank-and-file level where such foolishness must be marketed for votes.
In other words, they need to get a clue. And fast.
Americans are tired of ForeverWar and of an ideological fusionism that limped along after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the reigning paradigm of the Republican Party’s intellectual class and gave us Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya—disaster after disaster. Which isn’t to say a large, strong military is bad, or that we shouldn’t have one. But recent experience suggests we should soberly reevaluate how and why it is to be deployed. Those who have been chastened by these recent failures are now, wisely, calling for a standard that deployments should happen only when they serve America’s strategic interests, and not just to foist liberal democracy on places that probably don’t desire it, in a fit of utopian pique. Do such “democracies” make us safer?
By the same token, “free trade” is a con when other countries don’t play along, and many, like China, haven’t been doing that for decades; what we should want instead is fair trade that works for America’s interests. We should want what’s best for America. But instead of acting to secure the interests of America’s manufacturing base, fusionists pushed NAFTA, which shipped tens if not hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas. Now, they wring their hands, impotently muttering invectives against tariffs, while President Trump attempts to secure better trade deals to revive America’s heartland.
When tech oligarchs systematically silence conservative voices through biased algorithms designed to tilt public discourse ever leftward, fusionists insist that private property absolutely bars (as no other right does) our efforts to exercise our natural right to free speech in the new public squares of the internet. Oh, wait. Actually, that’s not quite right—because it’s easy to correct these abuses! You can start your own Twitter!
The administrative state and illegal immigration both violate the core principle upon which the entire American constitutional order is premised, i.e., government by consent of the governed. Rather than recognize that and combat them, fusionists blather on about the alleged economic benefits of mass, low-skilled, illegal immigration and offer flippant smears of their fellow Americans who rightly reject the supposed boon of illegal immigration.
“Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in?”
Thus spoke the oracle, Bill Kristol. All the while, the 800-pound gorilla in the room—“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . [which is] justly pronounced the very definition of tyranny”—shamefully eludes their serious attention and grows in tyrannical power.
And when the white-working class is plagued by opioid overdoses and ennui-induced suicide, brought about by its declining romantic, social, and economic prospects, fusionism’s brightest lights callously say they deserve their fate.
It is deeply irresponsible for the Right to continue anchoring itself to this long-irrelevant worldview. What America needs now is to commit itself to anti-universalist nationalism, foreign policy realism, fair trade, vigorous trust-busting, a solid southern border, and the reinvigoration of local, traditional, and communal life. In short, America needs to reweave the “bonds of affection” that once held together her citizens, rather than gleefully accept with open arms the corrosive acids of borderless, global capital markets, liberty-destroying technocracy, and moral anarchy.
The fusionists won their war—the Cold War—which is an outcome for which we should all be thankful. But their time has passed, and if we remain tied to them through political nostalgia in the face of mountains of evidence that their ideology isn’t up to the challenges of the present age, we’ll lose the cold civil war facing us today.
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