The cold war conservative mélange—what National Review founding contributor Frank Meyer called “fusionism”—was held together by more than its mutual commitment to fight Communism abroad and progressivism at home. It required discipline and, what’s more, relied on a prudential politeness—a gentleman’s politeness—befitting middle-class Americans who dreamed of rising above their middle-class station. Those of us old enough to remember pre-1989 conservatism knew what could and could not be said if we wished to hold the fusionist admixture together. After 1989, when Communism collapsed and progressivism morphed into identity politics, conservative discipline frayed but politeness remained—until the very-impolite Donald Trump rudely confirmed that movement conservatism had little to say about our present crises. Familiar battle cries—“religious liberty,” “the Second Amendment,” “lower taxes”—still rang out among the old guard, but gentlemanly conservatism looked less interested in winning political skirmishes than in politely losing from the comfortable confines of think tanks and academia while America burned. Trump knew this. American citizens knew this. Both had had enough. That is why Trump won in 2016.

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We can argue about what Trump did or did not achieve

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