Feature 06.14.2019 8 minutes

Why the New Right Rises


The Ahmari-French debate is just the beginning.

Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor of the New York Post, and David French, a Senior Writer at National Review, started arguing two weeks ago about how the American Right should think and act politically. The debate tapped into a larger reformation of the Right that is ongoing, and it won’t end soon.

French and others steeped in the consensus of the last few decades argue that we ought to maintain our course, arguing for a place at the table based on neutral principles of freedom. Ahmari and others on the New Right argue for a reordering of the coalition’s priorities to older principles and purposes, fighting for virtue and the common good and striving to conquer the public square.

As Claremont Institute’s President Ryan Williams explains in “Recovering America: What’s at Stake in the Ahmari-French Debate,” French and others “need to relearn how to be political and above all to stop confusing permanent principles…with the almost infinitely changeable applications of principle in shifting political environments.” Meanwhile, “though they occupy the more sensible and realistic position given the threats we face,” those on the New Right “need to revisit the wellsprings of the principled but eminently reasonable (and hardheaded) Americanism of the Founding.”

In “The American Founding Was Not Libertarian Liberalism,” Claremont Institute Vice President of Education and Editor of The American Mind, Matthew Peterson revisits those wellsprings, arguing that the New Right stands firmly in line with the American Founders when “it rejects the notion that the purpose of government is morally neutral, or merely to give autonomous individuals the freedom to do whatever they wish.” In fact, “one of the central arguments for the passage of the Constitution was to promote” a form of liberty “consonant with classical and Christian virtues over and against licentiousness.”

James Poulos, Executive Editor of The American Mind, says in “Retrieving Greatness for a Digital Age” that the effects of digital technology are “causing a fresh understanding of the greatness of the good of all to come into view.” “It is no longer the case that people’s imaginations can be captured by the electric-age ruling class,” and the elite are panicking. “What else can explain ruling-class convictions that…ordinary Americans cannot be trusted to use their own smartphones, but meritocrats forced to kneel before the altar of post-gender gnosticism…must alone be trusted to determine which memes are good and which evil?”

Professor of Political Science Dan Mahoney argues in “Theorizing the Moral Foundations of Democracy” that while the question of “the conservative, Christian, and Biblical response to the dislocations raised by an increasingly radicalizing liberal order” has been around “for a very long time”, “American republicanism was never built (as David French suggests) on ‘neutral principles’ and a flaccid pluralism.”

In “Let a Thousand Ahmari-French Debates Bloom“, writer Mark Hemingway asks for “More of these kinds of debates, please.” “What the Ahmari-French debate teaches us is not only that we need more intellectual debates as practical matter for resolving the factionalism of the present moment, but that those of us with soapboxes have a responsibility to foster these debates.”

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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