The past five years has seen populist movements emerge on both the left and right in many Western democracies, disrupting traditional politics on both the center-left and center-right. Clearly, the most large-scale manifestation of this phenomena is the rise of Trumpism, with businessman Donald Trump having won the Republican nomination and U.S. presidency in 2016 with a campaign that challenged the political establishment on issues like free trade and immigration. In the following paper, I use the current populist moment as an opportunity to revisit the thought of Russell Kirk (1918 – 1994), an American political theorist most famous for his 1953 book The Conservative Mind. As a traditionalist conservative, Kirk emphasized civil society and order in his work over economic liberty, and as a prolific writer, commented on many issues over the course of his career that are highly relevant in our contemporary politics, including trade, immigration, foreign policy, culture, and the environment. Following a discussion of Kirk’s thought on each of these issues and how it might be applied to contemporary times, I provide an extended meditation on how a reprisal of traditionalist conservatism inspired by figures like Kirk might heal some of the systemic issues within the Republican Party, before concluding with a look at how having a civil discourse on both sides of the aisle impinges on having a healthy center-right party within any political system.
Master of Arts
Major Research Paper