Whether Donald Trump wins or loses the upcoming presidential election, the shift in Republican values he has ushered in is sure to outlast him. What aspects of Trump’s legacy will the next generation of conservatism cling to, and under whose leadership? In July, historian and writer Thomas Meaney braved the Ritz-Carlton in Washington for the inaugural National Conservatism Conference, where a diverse group of pundits and thinkers of the nationalist right gathered to argue these questions, hoping to extract a winning ideology from the jumble of recent history; his report is the cover story for Harper’s Magazine’s February issue. Amid speeches by futurist tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, talk-show host Tucker Carlson, and former national security advisor John Bolton, Meaney depicts an exuberant and contradictory scene, bound together less by a specific platform—for now, at least—than by a common enemy, the “cosmopolitan” liberal elite.
In this episode, web editor Violet Lucca speaks with Thomas Meaney about the resuscitation of the right-wing political theories of James Burnham, the degree of relation between national conservatism and white nationalism, and why an event like the National Conservatism Conference might be the best place to read the future of the movement.