The challenge, quite apart from which school of thought on the right hopes to prevail, will be to preserve anything at all of the other sources of conservatism. The left will sooner or later—both sooner and later—collapse. What will take its place?
The American right should be extinct by now. Progressives occupy almost all of the commanding heights of the nation’s institutions—in the traditional and social media, in the universities, and even in corporate boardrooms. The permanent federal bureaucracy reliably serves progressive ends, and Democrats control the White House and Congress. If evangelical voters still lean right, the same cannot be said about the leadership of many evangelical Christian organizations, which today are in the throes of self-doubt—and self-purging—over something called “Christian nationalism.” Mainline Protestant churches remain progressive, and the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in the U.S. is not notably conservative.
With so much institutional power, and a demonstrated willingness to use it ruthlessly to “cancel” anyone who voices the wrong thoughts, progressives should be on the cusp of total victory. But instead a Republican resurgence in Congress this November looks almost inevitable, and President Biden’s age and approval ratings give a dismal forecast of his prospects for a second term. Would Vice President Kamala Harris be a stronger contender in 2024? Few Democrats think so. Yet to skip over her would risk a bitter struggle over the nomination and, what may be more damaging, would discredit the party’s entire narrative about its commitment to nominating blacks and women.
Losing the next two elections might not seem so terrible, however, in light of what little legislative success the Democrats have enjoyed while in the majority. In 2020, with President Trump beleaguered by the outbreak of COVID, impeachment, the George Floyd riots, and a years-long propaganda campaign depicting him as a stooge for Vladimir Putin, Republicans nevertheless exceeded expectations in November. The most favorable possible political environment, combined with a media that was more willing than ever to put its thumb on the scale—by suppressing news about Hunter Biden’s laptop, for example—was not enough to give the Democrats a secure hold on power. And their performance with what power the public did entrust to them has only made them more unpopular.