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Samuel Goldman is one of America’s most thoughtful conservatives. A professor of political theory at George Washington University and the executive director of its Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom, he spends his days pondering the ideas that define American politics.
Recently, Goldman has come to an uncomfortable conclusion: The conservative movement has failed. Its traditional package of ideas — free market economics, social conservatism, and an interventionist foreign policy — has long dominated the Republican Party but has clearly failed to win over enough actual voters to secure the White House.
“The great message of Trump is that there really are not that many movement conservatives,” Goldman told me during a sit-down near his office. “Since conservative politicians and policies have stopped delivering peace and prosperity, I think it’s more or less inevitable that voters have become dissatisfied.”
Moreover, he argued, the GOP and conservative movement has embraced a vision of America — Sarah Palin’s “Real America,” more or less — that can’t appeal to anybody but white Christians. A (somewhat controversial) census projection suggests that the US will be a majority minority country in the next 30 years — an unfriendly environment, to say the least, for the GOP.
“If you project yourself as a white Christian provincial party, you're not going to get very many votes among people who are none of those things,” Goldman says. “That's what's happened over the last 10 or 15 years.”