In July 2019, I attended the inaugural National Conservatism conference, organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation and held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference featured an all-star lineup of conservative speakers, from Tucker Carlson to J.D. Vance. As a self-identified libertarian, I decided to register and attend because I wanted to hear for myself what this new National Conservatism movement was all about. I didn’t want to rely on secondhand accounts in the press or even in conservative media.

It soon became apparent that the speakers didn’t have a firm idea either about what National Conservatism is. Each was pitching pretty much the same nostrums they always pitched, only now cast in more populist rhetoric. But there was one surprisingly persistent refrain. About every 20 minutes or so, a speaker would take a shot at “libertarians” or “libertarianism.” Often these shots seemed completely gratuitous. But they became so regular, it was amusing.


As I sat and listened, I was reminded of an old joke about two Jewish men who meet every day on a New York City park bench. One of them would always be reading a virulently antisemitic newspaper. Finally, the other man could no longer restrain himself and he challenged his friend: “Saul, why do you read such a Jew-hating rag when there are good

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