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National Conservatives Oppose the Republican Establishment

MIAMI, Florida — Hundreds of conservative activists, politicians and intellectuals flocked to Florida’s most populous metropolitan area for a three-day conference. But this week’s event isn’t your usual conservative talk: National Conservatism conference attendees and speakers came to promote a new brand of conservatism that rejects established norms and aims to respond to new challenges facing the country.

The National Conference of Conservatism represents what some call the new right: a movement that focuses less on free-market economics and more on social and cultural issues, particularly the family. National conservatives are more critical of corporations and have a more skeptical view of US involvement in foreign conflicts, and are more outspoken about crime and immigration.

“A National Conservative is someone who is really serious about the challenges facing the country right now, someone who is not epistemically closed because they have been in the conservative movement for 50 years and think the same thing that they solved some real problems in the era Regan. they are going to solve the problems that we have today,” Saurabh Sharma, a conference committee member and president of American Moment, told the DCNF. “These are people who take a fresh look at the problems we face instead of repeating the same old tired dogma.”

The three-day conference featured a variety of speakers, including the Republican governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, the heads of conservative think tanks including the Heritage Foundation and the Claremont Institute, tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, and dozens of others who discussed a shifting view of conservatism in response to a country and a changing political landscape.


Chris DeMuth, conference organizer and Hudson Institute Distinguished Fellow, said the event is an intellectual project that is incorporating a newer populist strain into an older conservatism from the early 20th century. This was the sixth national conservative event hosted by the Edmund Burke Foundation and the third in the US (three were held in Europe), but this year’s gathering had more energy and a deeper sense of urgency, he said. DeMuth to the DCNF.

National conservatives generally align themselves with former President Donald Trump and credit him with bringing about the sea change in conservative thinking beginning in 2016: he broke with Republicans on foreign policy and trade and was an outspoken critic of former President Bush, particularly when he it was about him was in Iraq. He also brought a different disposition to the table, and his willingness to cut against Republican orthodoxy seems to have opened the door for a more open conversation about what conservatism should look like today.

National conservatism isn’t about Trump, DeMuth said, as it’s an intellectual rather than a political movement, but he credits Trump with bringing certain concepts to popularity among conservatives: populism, renewed nationalism, and a movement away from the free trade absolutism, for example. .

“Trump pushed conservatives to reconsider their priorities, and you can see that at NatCon,” DeMuth told the DCNF. “National conservatism is not so focused on the economy; we are talking about populism and parochialism, about building a culture that supports marriage and families and allows people to build good and fulfilling lives.”

The rise and fall of Trump sparked a reckoning among conservatives over which parts of his legacy to hold on to, and even some of the more established prominent conservative organizations have distanced themselves from free-market fundamentalism and interventionist foreign policy positions since. 2016.

The Heritage Foundation has become less interventionist on foreign policy and more critical of big tech under the leadership of its new president, Kevin Roberts, who has said shifts in policy positions are a response to changing times. (RELATED: ‘We Reject Elites’: DeSantis Touts Political Victories in Fiery Speech)

“National conservatism is one of the most promising subsets of conservatism. It is an awakening to the timeless principles that all conservatives, no matter how we describe ourselves, believe in,” Roberts told the DCNF. “What’s happening on the right is a recognition that, A) we have a limited amount of time to build the power of DC and put it back in the hands of the American people and B) that we’ve been through too many years, I’d say which is more than two generations, of conservative elected officials who don’t wield the power that they do.”

National conservatives are less shy than established Republicans about using state power to go after big business and protect national interests: They are highly critical of corporations, especially big tech companies, which they see as having an outsized role in the control of public discourse and opinion and large corporations. that promote leftist ideology through labor practices, politically charged employee training, and environmental and social governance (ESG) initiatives. DeSantis he drew a line between free enterprise and “corporatism” in his opening speech, and the topic was discussed in many other speeches and panels.

“Corporatism is not the same thing as free enterprise, and I think too many Republicans have seen that limited government basically means that what’s best for corporate America is how we want to do the economy,” DeSantis said. “My point of view is that obviously free enterprise is the best economic system, but that is a means to an end. It is a means to have a good and satisfying life and a prosperous society. It’s not an end in itself.”

“America is a nation that has an economy, not the other way around, and our economy needs to be geared toward helping our own people,” he said.

When it comes to foreign policy, speakers at the conference echoed a growing concern about international interventionism still advocated by many in the Republican establishment.

Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, who gave a private address to conference VIPs, criticized congressional Republicans who voted to send $40 billion to Ukraine in comments to the DCNF, and former Homeland Security official Michael Anton questioned American involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict as potentially dangerous and progressive. Anton and other speakers also criticized US involvement after 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts previously championed by Republicans. (RELATED: ‘Let’s Get Rid of It’: Former Homeland Security Official Says US Should Abolish FBI)

“We spent 20 years in the Middle East essentially and we have nothing to show for it. We lost trillions of dollars and something like 7,000 American lives. No one can count the number of lives lost by Iraqi civilians, Afghan civilians, etc. The national security state wanted this,” Anton said. “When pressed on this, they will try to explain to them that this is all very important… the whole world is a vital national interest; we have to be involved everywhere, and if we’re not, the world will collapse and America will collapse with it.”

Conference speakers also criticized rogue federal agencies, namely the FBI and the Justice Department, in light of the recent Mar-a-Lago raid and other decisions they see as weaponizing law enforcement. law. Anton called for the dissolution of the CIA and the possible abolition of the FBI in a fiery speech Tuesday on the state of security, and commentator Mollie Hemingway contrasted the FBI’s intense crackdown on those present around the Capitol during the January 6, 2021 riots with its lax response to the widespread violence and destruction during the summer 2020 riots.

Other speeches and panels discussed immigration, gender ideology, racial tensions, ESG and religion, with multiple breakout sessions covering Catholicism and Protestantism and a priest, rabbi and pastor offering prayers and blessings.

National conservatives are more closely aligned with European conservatives, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, according to Tom Klingenstein, president of the conservative Claremont Institute. Klingenstein signed the national conservatism statement of principles, saying that Claremont is generally aligned with the group, but that the two have some philosophical differences.

“They see a regime, a way of life, based on tradition and religion and a certain morality that they would be a little bit more inclined to impose or at least influence,” he said. “They would be more inclined to involve the government in trying to create an environment for morality. I think they would be more inclined to support religion than we are.”



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