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Why Tradition-Loving Conservatives Are Waging War On Institutions


Tim Stanley, author of “Whatever Happened to Tradition?: History, Belonging and the Future of the West,” joined Federalist Publisher Ben Domenech on “The Ben Domenech Podcast” to discuss the future of the West’s liberal tradition, and conservatives’ paradoxical efforts to preserve it.

“There is a divergence in conservative opinion at the moment over whether or not liberalism, which is essentially the West’s political tradition, whether or not liberalism has just taken a wrong turn … or if that particular tradition of liberalism itself is bad, if it has an original sin,” Stanley explained.

“If [the latter] is true, what is the alternative? Either the alternative is a system which is imposed on us from without, like Chinese communism, or we’re talking about tearing everything up and starting all over again.”

“The absence in particular of economic policy” from liberalism’s critics, Stanley said, “speaks to the lack of an alternative.”

Former President Donald Trump’s rise clarified a tension within the conservative movement, with the populist president representing “a radical form of conservatism which seeks not just to preserve the status quo … but to actually acknowledge that things are broken about that system and go back to a point before in time.”

“The paradox is that conservatives end up becoming critical of the very institutions they want to save,” Stanley added. “Most conservatives want to save those institutions and revere them. … They are by psychology joiners of things … but at the same time, they’re excluded from the very things they love, and they feel they have to go to war with them in order to save them. You sort of saw Trump do that on steroids.”

Meanwhile, Stanley said, “the frustrating thing about conservatives is that they spend a lot of time complaining and not a lot of time doing. And that actually, the doing might be a question of not going away and doing something that’s self-consciously conservative, but of just doing something cultural well.”

As a result, Stanley’s encouragement to conservatives is simply to “go and write good books, paint good art, make good comedy, rather than trying to do something self-consciously political.”

Listen to the full interview here.