Originally posted on June 5, 2019.
John A. Burtka IV, executive director of the American Conservative magazine, writes in The Washington Post that, conservatives must break with their long history of dogmatic free-market advocacy to 1) take on big tech, and 2) take on China. He writes (abridged):
Political movements need a villain if they are going to hold together diverse, often contradictory coalitions. For Democrats, their latest villain rode down an escalator in Midtown Manhattan on a mid-June day four years ago. Republicans, by contrast, have been searching for a new villain ever since the end of the Cold War.
The impeachable Bill Clinton, Islamist terrorism and Obamacare all served as targets for the conservative movement, but none of these villains was able to galvanize the coalition the way that communism did during the 1980s. Even with Donald Trump in the White House, Reagan nostalgia has not yet subsided as conservatives struggle to integrate their new working-class constituency into a party previously committed to free trade and marginal tax cuts. That is all about to change.
There is consensus growing among conservatives in Washington and around the country that the biggest threats to American liberty come not from extremists in the Middle East or Democratic power grabs but from the behemoths in Silicon Valley and Beijing.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson cut to the heart of the matter last fall, ahead of the midterms, when he asked, “What could Google be doing this election cycle to support its preferred candidates? What could they do in 2020 is a question almost nobody in Washington seems interested in even asking. They ought to be interested.”
One person in Washington asking the question is a freshman senator, Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has become something of a sensation among a younger generation of conservatives as he has called for a renewal of antitrust enforcement to bust up the social media giants.
A political program built around the twin villains of Big Tech and China may prove advantageous for Republicans in the 2020 election, but it also poses fundamental challenges to conservative orthodoxy.
Conservatives must be comfortable breaking with free-market dogma in two principal ways.
Taking on Big Tech will require a revival of an anti-monopoly tradition going back to Theodore Roosevelt that stands up to concentrated economic power through vigorous antitrust enforcement.
Confronting China will require an industrial strategy that aims to protect and promote U.S. manufacturing, particularly by investing in new technologies and infrastructure. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), have taken up the challenge by developing a plan to do just tha.
A new report by the bipartisan Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group shows that the most underrepresented electoral constituency is socially conservative and fiscally moderate. If Republicans can speak to this audience by curbing the power of socially progressive corporations and developing a pro-worker economic platform to compete with China, they could build a new majority that might last a generation.
Read more here.