Steven P. Millies

In the months since the 2012 presidential election, much attention has focused on how Republican fortunes have shifted because of demographic changes in the United States. The number of minority voters is growing quickly at the same time the percentage of minority voters who vote Republican is shrinking. That story is important, but it is just one part of a larger problem that ought to worry conservatives.

Russell Kirk, the author of The Conservative Mind (1953), identified a short list of things that conservatism resists: “industrialism, centralization, secularism, and the leveling impulse.” To most readers today, that list probably looks a little puzzling. It names four prevalent social forces of the past century that have been accepted, if not always welcomed, in most parts of world. A conservatism that defines itself as resisting what now looks like faits accomplis faces significant disadvantages. It’s hard to recruit followers to a lost cause. By itself, nostalgia might be enough to power an ideological movement, but not to form a winning electoral coalition.

When William F. Buckley Jr., a disciple and promoter of Kirk’s conservative vision, founded the National Review in 1955, he proclaimed that its mission was to “stand athwart history, yelling...

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