Stating that traditional conservative principles have disappeared from American politics, Julius Krein, the founder and editor of American Affairs, called for a new political alliance across the two major U.S. parties during an event on Monday afternoon.
Law professor Amy Kapczynski LAW ’03 questioned Krein on American Affairs, a quarterly political journal, and conservative critiques of neoliberalism at the Monday event in Linsly-Chittenden Hall. Kimberly Goff-Crews, university secretary and vice president for student life, provided opening remarks for the event, which was sponsored by the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism. During the hourlong interview, Krein said there are many forms of conservatism, but that he is unsure which form would best fit into the modern political landscape. According to Krein, the conditions that make an alliance between social conservatives and libertarians viable in the past no longer operate in the current political climate. He added that today’s Democratic Party may be in a similar situation, as the voting coalitions and core issue focuses are constantly changing. As such, neither party is extremely coherent either as an electoral or ideological actor, he said.
“At this point, there’s probably more internal contradiction within each party than there is between the two, at least on some level,” Krein said.
Krein’s fundamental project is to address the central questions of practical policymaking, he said. According to Krein, many of his inquiries focus on China as the main topic in foreign and economic policy. With regard to the foreign power, he said he grapples with questions relating to de-industrialization, financialization and the 1990s culture wars.
Krein also discussed the direction of contemporary political debate in the U.S. and the possibility of reconciling partisan differences to form one coalition.
“Generally speaking, when things happen everyone has to agree,” Krein said. “Functionally, on core issues of political economy everyone seems to be moving in the same direction. At this point, I’m more interested in fertilizing both sides instead of planting a flag in a single ideological category.”
Krein said that he remains optimistic of a coalition that reacts to the plight of workers, lack of robust growth and other current economic situations.
Still, he recognized lasting difference between the two parties.
“I’m not saying that we should have a nice ‘no labels’ movement of elected Republican and Democratic officials,” Krein said. “Much like how there is now a lot of intense media shadowboxing, behind the scenes, the compromises they reach will move in a different direction … Although we cannot avoid all the ideological collisions, compromises will eventually be reached.”
Krein said the main obstacle to such a coalition is modern fundraising practices and their reliance on party and electoral machines. These traditions prove difficult to overcome, as they are rooted in legacy institutions that keep politicians in line with their party, according to Krein.
“The prospect of change exists but is rather nascent,” Krein said. “There is a serious misalignment of incentives which impedes such a change in fundraising.”
Back in early 2016, Krein said he and his friends wrote a piece about Trump’s lead in primary polling and why Trump was not simply a “celebrity candidate.” Afterward, they started a blog which ended up far more popular than any of them had imagined. According to Krein, the blog highlights similarities between the two parties.
Goff-Crews referenced his journal in her opening remarks, hailing it for its unique work in public policy.
“American Affairs aims to be a forum for ideas that do not fit within conventional ideological categories and policy prescriptions,” Goff-Crews said. “This includes conservative criticism of the free market.”
Bob Bloch, a professor from a nearby school who attended the event, said he found Krein’s ideas innovative and compelling.
Still, Bloch added that he is concerned that the incentive for such a coalition between Republicans and Democrats may not exist.
“His mode of republicanism is new but all too new, and is largely dependent on what the Democrats do,” Bloch said. “If the Democrats elect Biden or Clinton, his strategy would work by appealing to the base, while if someone to the left like Sanders and Warren is elected, I’m doubtful whether his vision would still stand.”
American Affairs was founded in February 2017.
Luna Li | firstname.lastname@example.org