In the age of Trump and an increasingly Neomarxist Republican Party, it can be helpful to pause and remind ourselves what it means to be conservative. Catholic poet and philosopher, James Matthew Wilson, offered just such a reminder in his 2017 book The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition.
For Wilson, there can be no recovery of conservative values without a recovery of beauty. Moreover, he argues, there can be no lasting conservative renaissance if cultural formation is overlooked in the lust for institutional success.
Wilson observes that even as the political right has been on the rise since the time of Reagan, institutional success has not run parallel with cultural formation. Rather, political conservatism has restricted itself to an increasingly narrow range of issues disconnected from the formation of the next generation.
“So wide was this chasm between institutional success and cultural formation, that most of the children raised in the age of Republican ascendancy have arrived at adulthood with, perhaps, their explicit political principles informed by a vague belief in free markets and low taxes, but with their imaginations and sensibilities entirely formed on the mass cultural excretions of music, film, and television–and their cultural politics in turn molded by that sensibility.”