In the United States, the post-liberal right has an ally in national conservatism. Both rights defend an economic program with more ingredients of the European welfare state. And they want to stop the disruptive effects of cultural progressivism on families.
National conservatism is a movement driven by the Edmund Burke Foundation, based in Washington DC. of his supporters is in line with Donald Trump’s policies. Other references are the European politicians Viktor Orbán, Marion Maréchal, Giorgia Meloni and the North Americans Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, JD Vanc All participated as speakers in the international conventions that this platform has been organizing since 2019.
The post-liberal right has its own priorities, even though it shares concerns and proposals with the other. Indeed, some post-liberal thinkers have spoken at these meetings. One of their most common convictions is that they do not want a Republican Party that prioritizes the management of the economy to the detriment of disputes over values and lifestyles: both must go hand in hand.
JD Vance, an emerging star in republicanism, sums it up like this: “Middle-class Americans don’t just care about their jobs. They also care about what their children are taught. The idea that the culture war is a departure from the concerns of the average American is preposterous.”
The ideas of these rights can have a more profound effect. than other failed attempts to soften the economic liberalism of the Republican Party, such as the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush or that of reformist economists. But the post-liberals and national conservatives compete with other rights that defend, yes, with energy, neoliberalism: the Tea Party, the partisans of the old fusionist consensus, the libertarians, etc.
Rethinking the American Dream
Vance, Ohio Senate candidate in the midterm elections of 2022, became famous with his memoir “Hillbilly” [Caipira], a rural elegy that became a Netflix movie. Published in 42, the book served to understand Trump’s surge among Americans without higher education (the so-called “working class ”).
As explained by Vance himself, from 37 years ago, this account chronicles the decline of the American dream as experienced by his family and neighbors in a small town in Ohio, a Rust Belt community battered by family crisis, deteriorating community ties, unemployment, poverty, and opioid abuse.
As a young man, his father left home and his mother turned to drugs. But Vance forged ahead, thanks to the support and discipline of his energetic grandmother. He joined the Marine Corps, earned a degree in political science and philosophy from Ohio University and a law degree from Yale. Then he worked for a few years as an investor and entrepreneur in the technology sector. Vance is married, has two children and converted to Catholicism in 2019.
Now, with the support of one of Trump’s donors, Peter Thiel, he aims to win Ohio’s Republican seat in the Senate. For Vance, it is worth remembering that conservatives do not have a monopoly on representing the common good or ordinary citizens. His and his friends’ experience is that fatherhood connects people “with their communities, their families and their faith”. It is a conclusion similar to that reached by a documentary about the difference in the level of happiness between the richest and most educated people and the rest.
The conditions social matters matter
Here is where his view of politics connects more with post-liberal “common good conservatism” than with republicanism. traditional. Vance greatly appreciates individual responsibility, but does not idealize it. He gives the real-life example of a boy addicted to opioids since he was eight years old. Classic conservatives would tell him that his parents should make better decisions and that the good guy, when he reaches adulthood, should do the same. But Vance knows that it is not so easy to escape tragedy when you were raised in an economically and culturally adverse context.
His thesis is that the deterioration of communities is a consequence of political decisions, which must be reversed with the same public power that caused the fiasco. “We live in an environment and in a culture that has been shaped by our laws and public policies, and we cannot continue to ignore that fact.”
Vance said this in a speech entitled “Beyond Libertarianism”, at a national conservatism convention held in 2019. This type of discourse made him seen as a conservative capable of reaching people of diverse ideological tendencies and social contexts. But today his critics chide him for having become more divisive, at least on Twitter. The turnaround he took to ingratiate himself with the ex-mandatory, who in 42 was seen as a symptom and not solution. Even conservative commentators who appreciate him recognize the shift: Vance has gone from explaining Trump to copycat, says Jonathon von Maren.
Will he ever be himself again? It has to be seen. As for its policies, it promises to cut public funding to universities “that teach critical race theory or gender ideology”, “to compel our schools to give an honest and patriotic account of the history of the United States”, “to dismember big tech companies to reduce its power”, reward marriage and family with a more favorable tax policy, “end abortion”, strengthen surveillance along the border with Mexico, fight drugs and the opioid crisis, protect the right to bear arms , to promote a foreign policy that puts the United States first…
The market is not a panacea
Another republican politician who moderated his enthusiasm for liberalism is Senator Marco Rubio, from 50 years old. Once lauded by a movement as anti-statist as the Tea Party, today he promotes what he calls “common good capitalism”, a system of free enterprise that seeks to recalibrate the needs of workers with those of investors and entrepreneurs, and which draws attention to the perverse effects of the lack of decent work, such as the erosion of families and communities, the increase in child poverty or deaths from despair. [Trata-se das mortes precoces causadas por suicídio, alcoolismo ou overdose. A expressão “morte por desespero” vem sendo usada nos Estados Unidos para explicar a queda da expectativa de vida de sua população].
“To the political right – he lamented in a speech by 2022 –, we have become defenders of the right for companies to obtain benefits, for shareholders to receive a return on investment and the obligation that people have to work. But we ignore the rights of workers to participate in the benefits they create for their employer and the obligation of companies to act in the best interests of workers and the country that made their success possible.”
Rubio openly rejects socialism. But he strays from Republican guidelines when he proposes abandoning favorable tax treatment on share buybacks and giving it “to companies that reinvest their earnings in a way that creates new jobs and higher wages.” Or when he recommends boosting public investment in industries that are key to the national interest. Or when it promotes family policy measures such as child tax relief or paid paternity leave.
Post-liberals appreciate Rubio’s vision, but will further afield and ask for measures to help families such as those in Orbán.
An iron fist with the “Big Tech”
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, 50 , also insists that the Republican Party must stop prioritizing the interests of big business over ordinary citizens. Like Rubio or JD Vance, he tends to associate a lack of economic opportunity with cultural decline.
After graduating from Stanford in history and law at Yale, he did internships first as an assistant in federal court and later under Chief Justice John Roberts. Before making the leap into politics, he worked for a few years at the law firm The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he was part of the team that won the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
elitist, observes journalist Emma Green, did not prevent him from resorting to a very harsh speech against elites. Hawley tends to address issues that go down well with the left – such as inequality, low wages, deregulation or the civic value of unions – but he also has a message that appeals to conservatives.
For example, at the last convention of national conservatism, held at the end of last October, Hawley denounced the crisis of masculinity, which he attributes to the increase, among men, of unemployment, family instability, anxiety and depression, drug use, pornography, idleness, etc. And in his book “The Tyranny of Big Tech” [A tirania das Big Tech], he defends the regulation strictest of the tech giants, in which he sees the most serious threat to American freedom in decades.
Hawley, along with the Texas senator Ted Cruz – another politician fond of national conservatism, but more liberal in the economic field –, was one of the Republicans who remained suspicious about the integrity of the presidential elections after the attack on the Capitol.
Statists… or not
Will the Conservatives’ new statist bent connect with the current priorities of the working class? If the turning point is along the lines of expanding the welfare state, this connection is likely to be produced. And also if it materializes in an administrative state that confronts the ideology woke and the critical theory of race.
But what is being seen both in the protests of truck drivers in Canada and in the yellow vests of France, observes Joel Koktin, is that today the working class is not a friend of the “orders given from above”.
In any case, in the realm of ideas these politicians – and, above all, post-liberal intellectuals – they make several valuable contributions: they reintroduce the notion of the common good into politics; they rebalance the emphasis on individual responsibility with the importance of social conditions; expose how the State can facilitate or hinder economic progress and the good life of citizens; and link the concern with the consequences of the economic model to that of cultural decline.
Conservatives, for their part, must remind them that they have neither the monopoly of representation of the common good, nor of common citizens.
*Juan Meseguer is an essayist, poet, doctor in sociology and editor-in-chief of the Spanish website Acprensa.