Not so long ago Avik Roy was a rising star on the right. A graduate of MIT and the Yale School of Medicine, Roy wrote the only credible conservative counter-proposal to the Affordable Care Act. Along with Reihan Salam, Yuval Levin, and Josh Barro he was among the party’s “reformicons,” younger thinkers working to craft reality-based conservative policy proposals.
In that capacity Roy has advised three Republican Presidential contenders. He wrote policy proposals for the Manhattan Institute and maintained an influential blog at Forbes. Now, he has a dire message for the Republican Party.
In an interview with Vox this week he expressed his conviction that the party will probably disintegrate, torn apart by its attachment to white nationalism. His is the most candid assessment of the party’s condition that has yet been issued by an insider. Expect others to follow soon.
Needless to say, Roy’s new posture comes as a welcome relief. It’s worth looking at his assessments and comparing them to some of the ideas that have appeared here at GOPLifer over recent years. Let’s walk through some of the high points from the Vox piece and their companions from the GOPLifer blog.
“I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way,” he said. “There’s going to be a disruption.”
“the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans.”
“Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was a historical disaster for the conservative movement,” Roy tells me, “because for the ensuing decades, it identified Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party opposed to civil rights.”
“The fact is, today, the Republican coalition has inherited the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the Southern Democrats who are now Republicans,” Roy says. “Conservatives and Republicans have not come to terms with that problem.”
This, Roy believes, is where the conservative intellectual class went astray. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise.
Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism — labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists — succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.
“Either the disruption will come from the Republican Party representing cranky old white people and a new right-of-center party emerging in its place, or a third party will emerge, à la the Republicans emerging from the Whigs in the [1850s].”
And finally this disturbing excerpt:
For the entire history of modern conservatism, its ideals have been wedded to and marred by white supremacism. That’s Roy’s own diagnosis, and I think it’s correct. As a result, we have literally no experience in America of a politically viable conservative movement unmoored from white supremacy
For those puzzled by the inability of American conservatives to evolve in a manner similar to the British Tories, that final quote hits home. There is no conservative movement in the US beyond a few wonky academics and their small fanbase. No such movement of any size or power has existed in the US since the Great Depression. “Conservatism” was coopted by America’s racial dead-enders, primarily in the South.
Hardly anyone alive in the US has any memory of conservatism or its concerns. That intellectual vacuum on the right is an enormous obstacle to any credible reform.
Roy is right. The seeds of Goldwater’s bad judgment have ripened. No force remains with the power to halt the Republican Party’s descent into regional status as a party of white men. Americans interested in markets, commerce, trade, and personal liberty must look elsewhere for an organization to represent and promote our concerns.