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Pete Spiliakos is a columnist for First Things.

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Conservative Populism and the Cory Gardner Problem

From Web Exclusives

A funny thing happened when Cory Gardner, the senator-elect from Colorado, went on Fox News Sunday: He reminded us of the extent to which he is an establishment Republican. He was hand-picked by establishment Washington Republicans, but that’s easy to forget because of the way that his campaign united Colorado’s right-of-center voters and won over much of the persuadable electorate. Gardner’s success, however, reveals problems in the establishment conservative platform and shows what it would take for a populist conservative with better policy ideas to get elected. Continue Reading »

Social Liberal Hubris

From Web Exclusives

Mark Udall’s senatorial defeat might have been the sweetest victory for social conservatism on Tuesday. He organized his campaign around the theme that Republicans were hostile to women, and that his opponents would ban contraception—and all of this with a side order of abortion extremism. Udall’s defeat by Cory Gardner (and the mockery Udall has received across the political spectrum) might indicate that the Democratic “war on women” campaign tactic has outlived its usefulness. Maybe it has, but social conservatives should be careful to distinguish between Mark Udall’s war on women campaign, and the more effective (though still overrated) war on women campaign run by Barack Obama in 2012. Continue Reading »

How to Succeed In Politics As a Businessman By Really Trying

From Web Exclusives

A certain Georgia Senate seat has a strange and revealing recent history. 2008 was the ultimate Democratic wave year, but the Georgia Senate seat remained in Republican control after a runoff election. 2014 is shaping up to be a Republican wave year, but Republicans are left hoping to retain that same Senate seat based on President Obama’s unpopularity. The Georgia Republicans have gone from being able to resist a Democratic wave to depending on a Republican wave. Much of this variance from national trends has to do with the particular weaknesses of Georgia’s businessman-turned-politician Republican candidate: David Perdue. Continue Reading »

Neither Prudence Nor Courage

From Web Exclusives

While campaigning for the Republican nomination in the Iowa senatorial race, Joni Ernst had called for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency. When she was called on this claim in a general election debate, Ernst’s response was a mess that both praised the federal Clean Water Act and seemed to call for state-based environmental regulation. Conservative journalist Byron York observed that Ernst was “definitely not in control of the question.” Perhaps it might be better to say that Ernst was willing to be neither an Abraham Lincoln nor a Charles Sumner. Continue Reading »

A False Choice

From Web Exclusives

The performance of populist parties in Europe should be a warning for American conservatives. Those European parties (while they often vary greatly from one country to another) are consistently winning the votes of working-class white voters who feel abandoned by the political class. Similar forces are at work in America. The right can’t win (or can only win the narrowest and most fragile of victories) without them, so it must speak to them. Continue Reading »

Romney the Political Placebo

From Web Exclusives

Ramesh Ponnuru and Reihan Salam, two of the right’s smartest and most intellectually honest intellectuals disagree over whether Mitt Romney should run for president in 2016. Ponnuru has the better case, but, in reading both men, it becomes clear the degree to which Romney was not the reason for the GOP defeat(s) in 2012. Continue Reading »

Their Suspicious Circles—And Ours

From Web Exclusives

If you want to know why liberals had so much political trouble in the 1980s, you could do worse than read Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge. The book itself is a partisan account of politics from 1973-1976, but what stands out is Perlstein’s framing device: Reagan stole the chance of liberal critics to redefine America. Perlstein writes of a friend who hated Reagan because Continue Reading »

How to Survive Demonization

From Web Exclusives

Whether the issue is abortion or spending, a fraction of African-American, Hispanic, and young voters are on the right when it comes to policy, but voted for President Obama. These voters are immersed in a milieu where they never hear the worst of the left, or the best of the right. But there’s hope. A lifetime of attitudes can change, but not all at once. Though no national candidate will be able to change such attitudes in the few months of a presidential campaign, such change has happened before on a more local level. Continue Reading »

Conservatives’ Mixed Message on Immigration

From Web Exclusives

America has “bad-faith open borders.” We limit immigration but we enforce those limits only sporadically. Fred Bauer argues that this “is a distorted hybrid of the United States’ tradition of ordered borders and of the transnationalist aim of entirely open borders.” The distortion is real, but it is not rooted entirely in transnationalism. It is also rooted in a certain kind of American exceptionalism that has a history on the right, but that conservatives don’t talk about very much. Getting past “bad-faith open borders” will require rejecting romanticism and looking to the facts of the American present. Continue Reading »