I've been saying for months that Trump's success has been a vindication of my arguments in Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism. The failure of the conservative movement to purge the challenger seems to verify my earlier intuition that the movement is on the wane. That said, I realize that readers who haven't bought the book may not just take my word for it.
So here are a few passages from the book, that seem pretty prescient given recent developments.
This is from page 70:
The preceding pages demonstrated the impressive ability of the mainstream conservative movement to define what ideas, groups, and individuals can properly be described as conservative. By doing so, they kept more radical – or simply different – right-wing voices from reaching a larger audience or exercising major influence on the Republican Party. It is not immediately clear that it will maintain that ability in the years ahead. William F. Buckley died in 2008. There is not presently a figure who commands such universal respect among conservatives, or one who has the power to almost single-handedly excommunicate figures from the conservative movement.
And this is from page 73:
It is possible that a slow decline in the power of organized conservatism in America will usher in a new era of progressive hegemony in American politics. However, it is also conceivable that organized conservatism’s weakness will open up new space for right-wing ideological movements that have long lived on the fringe. While progressives may view some of these alternative right-wing ideologies as a superior alternative to the conservative movement they have known for seven decades, others may be much more frightening should they ever find a large base of popular support.
Many on the Left have long awaited the demise of conservatism as a force in America, and will cheer its departure from the scene – should such as departure ever occur. However, progressives who seek the downfall of the conservative movement should be cautious in this regard. They are not the only ideologues who desperately wish to see conservatism sent to the dustbin of history. As this volume demonstrates, there are multiple right-wing movements that have been denied access to the mainstream political debate – largely due to the conservative movement’s aggressive enforcement of the boundaries of acceptable right-wing thought. It is possible that a rapid implosion of mainstream conservatism will usher in a new progressive consensus in American politics. It is also possible that such an implosion will offer crucial breathing space for one or more of these alternative right-wing ideologies. In a post-conservative America, one or more of the ideologies discussed in this volume may find new followers and gain new wealthy benefactors who previously backed the mainstream conservative movement. While progressives may view some of these alternatives as superior to traditional conservatism – or at least not any worse – they will surely also view others as much more dangerous and threatening to their values. If conservatism breaks down, many of its present constituents may embrace a more radical right-wing ideology, making American politics far more unstable.
There are a few more comments that look pretty good in hindsight -- though I also said a few things that already appear incorrect. In any event, I am just grateful to have stumbled on this research agenda just as it is becoming unexpectedly important.