Volume > Issue > Conservatism at the Crossroads

Conservatism at the Crossroads


By Casey Chalk | June 2021
Casey Chalk, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is a contributor to The American Conservative and The Federalist.

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that American conservatism is in crisis. The Republicans have lost both the Senate and the White House. They are increasingly at loggerheads with one of their oldest allies, big business, as evidenced by corporate America’s willingness to punish GOP-run states for legislation related to gender, sexuality, and voting access. And, regardless of your opinion of Donald Trump, relying on the 74-year-old former president is not an effective long-term strategy. He might lead a new Republican coalition in the next election — and perhaps even win — but the GOP requires something beyond Trump’s personality and élan to survive.

Compounding the crisis are intra-conservative debates regarding political philosophy. In his book Why Liberalism Failed (2018), Notre Dame scholar Patrick Deneen argues that our nation’s founding, whatever its merits, is fundamentally undermined by its inherent Enlightenment-influenced individualism and the indifferentism of classical liberalism, which explains many of the seemingly irresolvable social and legal conflicts that define our era. Other conservative thinkers, like former Voice of America director Robert R. Reilly in his book America on Trial (2020), have defended the founding as both internally coherent and influenced by natural-law theory.

Confused and frustrated by contemporary politics, and sensing my own inadequacies in interpreting these debates, I applied for, and was accepted to, the Constitutional Fellows Program, a joint project of The American Conservative and The Catholic University of America’s Center for the Study of Statesmanship. Given that NOR editor Pieter Vree formally recommended me as a fellow, I reckon it right to share with readers a few of the more salient lessons I have learned in the program.

Enjoyed reading this?



You May Also Enjoy

The Root Causes of the Dislocation of Our Times

The masses are more and more prone to lies, which they buy willingly for the sake of having a rock on which to stand amid the shifting cultural sands.

After the Fall of Richmond, What?

For Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, and Walker Percy, neither tradition nor wealth-getting nor Protestantism answered the question of the meaning of existence. Their answer was in the Church.

My Pilgrimage

When the Mass was trans­lated into English, I noticed right away how often it says “Peace”: it’s repeated over and over again, like a heartbeat, clear through.