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Earlier this week, erstwhile culinary icon of Southern-inspired cultural conservatism Chick-fil-A kowtowed to the hectoring bullies of radical LGBT activism and announced that it would henceforth refrain from donating to such deeply polarizing and horrifyingly conservative Christian organizations as … the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Apparently, a mere organizational affiliation with Christianity in the year 2019 suffices to incite “homophobic” or “transphobic” smears from the secularist outrage mob.
Far be it from me to tell a private company that it has made a poor business decision, but the reality is that Chick-fil-A has all but assuredly made a poor business decision. As many in the commentariat class have pointed out, Chick-fil-A’s business model has only increasingly flourished as the Left’s attacks against it have contemporaneously amplified. The predictable result of Chick-fil-A’s corporate cowardice will only be the alienation of the company’s core supporters and the failure to appease its insatiable foes on the Left.
As Spencer Klavan aptly put it at The American Mind, “The attack on Chick-fil-A makes plain that radical leftists are not in this for a compromise, or an equitable live-and-let-live solution. … Destruction, not détente, is the goal.” Indeed. And against this backdrop of leftist/secularist cultural hegemony, overly defensive calls for pluralism and procedural “tolerance” are woefully inadequate responses for those of us on the political Right.
The latest Chick-fil-A imbroglio is, of course, a downstream symptom of an upstream cause: The utterly toxic politicization of all facets of our day-to-day lives. As Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro argued in his syndicated column this week, this is a deeply pernicious trend. The fraying of the American social fabric, already a years- or decades-long phenomenon, continues to worsen unabated. A nation where warring political tribes not only consume different media, but eat different chicken sandwiches and wear differing clothing lines, is a country destined for bitter strife, at best — or internecine violence, at worst.
Americans of good faith all ought to agree that we should not want to live in a country where such an anodyne institution as a chicken sandwich chain elicits this level of hostility, and engenders this level of politicized passion, due to its Christian-inspired donative proclivities.
The question for conservatives, amidst this debilitating backdrop of politicized bifurcation, a widening economic and cultural chasm between the classes, and metastasizing crises of hyper-individualistic atomism and despondency, is how best to proceed as a political movement. The republic often seems to be falling apart at the seams, and it is incumbent upon all of us in the political and commentariat classes to think very hard about what it is we can do to plot a salutary path forward. Above all else, that path forward must focus on how best to heal our polity’s fractious wounds and concomitantly re-inculcate a sense of proud Americanism.
It ought to be obvious that “live-and-let-live”-style classical liberalism — a political movement centered around the conservation of certain Enlightenment-era procedural norms, and not around the conservation of substantive moral or cultural norms — is both politically wanting and woefully inadequate to confront the crises of our times. Rather, a resurgent, forward-looking conservatism simply must better account for a human nature that, contra Ayn Rand, is inherently inimical to radical individualism. Human nature yearns for communitarianism — for inclusion in what Edmund Burke famously called the “little platoon[s]” of society. Yet the sclerotic and morally bankrupt reality of contemporary American political life presents us, as New York Post Op-Ed Editor Sohrab Ahmari put it this week at First Things, with a “bipartisan abolition of solidarity.”
Conservatives simply must become more willing to rethink outmoded Reagan-era orthodoxies and to discard the anachronistic bromides of what some now dub “Conservatism, Inc.” As Ahmari framed it, the human nature reality for both leftists and libertarians/procedure-centric classical liberals is that “the longing for solidarity can never be permanently repressed.”
It is past time to make this pursuit of solidarity a core underlying basis of our conservative political agenda. To be sure, filling out the substantive details of this solidaristic, assimilationist, nationally cohesive conservative agenda — what many of us might call “national conservatism” — remains a work in progress. Here is how I briefly outlined parts of the agenda, back in July:
National conservatism means a politics concretely focused on the mutually interdependent bonds of human loyalty upon which a society ultimately depends — as opposed to the atomization espoused by hyper-individualistic doctrinaire libertarianism. National conservatism means a politics focused on national solidarity and reinforcing the shared customs, traits, norms, and mores that establish America not merely as an idea but also as a tangible people — as opposed to the existential scourge of divisive multiculturalism. National conservatism means viewing America as a nation-state with an economy — as opposed to viewing America as but one border-less abstraction within a globalized economy. National conservatism means the articulation and advancement of all domestic and foreign policy alike through the lens of national self-interest — as opposed to policy advancement based on transnational considerations or the needs of foreigners. National conservatism means a hardened immigration system that prioritizes cultural assimilation above all else — as opposed to a laxer immigration system that prioritizes the cheap labor needs of the Fortune 500. National conservatism means a foreign affairs approach premised on narrow alliances with like-minded, self-sufficient nations who share America’s core national security concerns — as opposed to a foreign affairs approach premised on a tendentiously moralistic, sovereignty-undermining transnational agenda. National conservatism means a world order of sovereign nation-states — as opposed to the soft tyranny of the unelectable transnational bureaucrats in Turtle Bay and Brussels. National conservatism means a domestic affairs approach that, while undoubtedly market-oriented, resists the vestigial temptation to shirk the levers of political power as a means to advance the conservative cause in the realms of Big Tech, higher education, and other private spheres that increasingly pose just as dire a threat to our way of life as does over-zealous Big Government itself. National conservatism means a conservatism that works for the American heartland and for all rungs of the economic ladder — as opposed to a purist anti-regulation agenda that merely speaks for the economic interests of the bi-coastal elite.
There are many erudite conservative critics of this prospective political model. I share some of their concerns. And it is true that policy wonks must dedicate substantial time to fleshing out more of the intricate details. But I also do not see a viable alternative path forward. America will regain its sense of national solidarity — its sense of patriotism and of communitarian belongingness in the greatest nation-state in the history of the world — or it will eventually wither and die. I, for one, am hoping for the former.