Commentary Magazine

What Is the Future of Conservatism?

This article is from our January symposium issue, in which 53 leading writers and thinkers answer the question: “What is the future of conservatism in the wake of the 2012 election?” Click here to read the entire symposium.



The first thing conservatives must do is get rid of their name. I’m not being entirely facetious here. Being identified as the party or ideology of fogeyish white men is a prescription for rigor mortis, given current demographics. It’s time to aggressively embrace the modern.

By that I don’t mean trendy techno-drivel such as Project Orca. I’m talking about genuinely forward-thinking ideas that point to a creative, entrepreneurial future. Conservatives must outflank the liberal-progressive whatevers who are indeed the true ideological fuddy-duddies. That is the key to our salvation. Otherwise we will be left behind.

Don’t believe me? Not only have we lost Hispanics. The most depressing statistic from the last election was that the most educated, ambitious, forward-looking, and financially well-off group in our society–Asian Americans–voted Democratic by 3 to 1. Yes, all those brilliant kids from the Bronx High School of Science are now Democrats. Shame on us.

What is to be done, Comrade? First of all, take the social issues entirely off the table. They are not the province of government and cannot, in the real world, be legislated. And they, more than anything, provide a cudgel for bludgeoning conservatives and Republicans in perpetuity in the eyes of women and young people. (“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” is among the most influential statements of all time for a reason. The bedroom is not Caesar’s.)

I know what the social conservatives are thinking: Oh, Simon, he’s an ex-liberal who favors gay marriage, etc. True. But I have some good news for them. By removing their social goals from the political sphere as much as possible, they are more likely to achieve them in the society itself. It’s human nature.

Next, take the lead in instituting a rational immigration policy. I suspected that Mitt Romney (a man I genuinely admire) had already lost the general election when he ran to the right of Newt Gingrich on immigration during the primaries, and, unfortunately, I was right. Gingrich’s ideas on immigration are a good start. Go with them.

Meanwhile–and this is more difficult and even more important–move to take back the arts and entertainment. Conservatives whine incessantly about Hollywood. Stop whining and do it. Learn to make movies and TV shows that are as good as theirs. As a film professional, I know how difficult this is, but it can be done. Like the old joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall, all it takes is practice, practice, practice.

The same goes for the other two pillars of our culture: education and the media. Home-schooling is not enough and will always be marginal because too many parents have to work for a living. Infiltrate the public school system and demand equal time for conservative ideas. If we don’t do this, the future is lost before it starts.

Finally, and I know this is self-serving, support new media as never before. We cannot compete with the New York Times or CBS without moral and, alas, financial support.


Roger Simon is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, novelist, and co-founder of PJ Media. His most recent work is the play The Party Line (with Sheryl Longin).