Posted BY: Peter Berkowitz
The New Right’s intellectual leaders are not the first, even within the post-World War II American conservative movement, to demand purity in the ranks; denounce infidels, heretics, and apostates; and cast out the weak of spirit and the impure of heart and mind. The sense of gloom and doom among national conservatives and common-good conservatives and their zeal for decisive action, however, are not for nothing. What reasonable person could doubt that the vilification of America’s founding principles and constitutional traditions launched by progressive elites sows intolerance and threatens the country’s cohesiveness, prosperity, and security?
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Yet amid America’s diverse civil society and in its pluralistic constitutional democracy, it makes little sense as an electoral strategy to shrink one’s circle of friends and drive away potential voters in the middle. At a moment of intense political polarization and with an electorate swinging back and forth by small margins between candidates of the left and right, it appears particularly imprudent for members of the New Right to ostracize individuals and groups who seek to conserve America’s traditions of individual freedom, inalienable rights, and limited government. Redefining conservatism in America to purge those who take their bearings from the modern tradition of freedom, moreover, betrays a misunderstanding of the origins, aims, and structure of American constitutional government.