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I was perhaps an atypical candidate for the First Things Junior Fellowship. As a college student, I led a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, and was, for a time, a committed Marxist. Marxism gave me a framework for understanding my upbringing in a relatively poor home in a Southern town left behind by the whirlwind of neoliberalism.

But as I engrossed myself in the work of running a political organization, I became disenchanted with the progressive left. Meeting after meeting was stymied by censorious whining and battles of identity politics. Efforts to help the homeless were put on the back burner as we argued over whether Robert’s Rules was a “crypto-fascist” way to conduct meetings. A reading group on the history of political thought, for which I had composed a syllabus, was torpedoed at our first meeting after an individual lambasted my decision to start with Plato. The Republic, she said, was an “ur-text of fascism.”

I left organized politics, and for the next two years my political activities were limited to scholarly engagement with classic theoretical works. While I gradually rejected a strictly materialist conception of history and ceased to describe myself as a Marxist, I could not sign on to conservatism. Whatever my convergence with conservatives on matters cultural, the economic policy agenda of the American right was in large part responsible for the deindustrialization that had immiserated my home.

During the summer of 2019, a friend sent me an article that I’ve returned to many times since: “Against the Dead Consensus.” Finally, I thought, a substantive critique of the Reaganite specter that haunts the American right. Finally, a conservatism willing to defend the working class against the vicissitudes of the market. It was a platform that I could sign on to, and I subscribed to First Things soon after.

Things have changed since then. The initial backlash to “Against the Dead Consensus” has given way to a GOP that seems to be operating on the article’s terms. Every presidential hopeful now races to articulate a comprehensive family policy, and even Marco Rubio is willing to support the effort to unionize the Amazon plant back in my home state. But the struggle is not over yet—old habits die hard, and unprecedented inflation could lead the American right to “simply play those 1980s hits again,” emphasizing tax cuts and free trade, as Ross Douthat has suggested. This would be a betrayal of the working class whose cause the right has championed in the past few years.

As the right continues to struggle over its identity and future, First Things remains an indispensable voice for a politics of community, demanding that we treat our own better, and that we not favor the international financial class over the people who are the backbone of our society. But First Things can’t do it alone. Please donate today to support our work in shifting the terms of debate.

Hunter McClure is a junior fellow at First Things.

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