Published July 20, 2016
EPPC Hertog Fellow Yuval Levin discussed Donald Trump, conservatism, the future of the GOP, and more in a recent interview with Ezra Klein of Vox. Below is Vox‘s introduction to the interview, followed by the beginning of the conversation. Read the full conversation at Vox.com.
Yuval Levin has been called “the most influential conservative intellectual of the Obama era,” and the moniker fits. As editor of National Affairs — in my opinion, the best policy journal going on the right — he’s been at the head of the “reformicon” movement, and his work has had a heavy influence on top Republicans like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. If you had asked me a year ago to name the conservatives likely to set the agenda for the Republican Party in 2016 and beyond, Levin would’ve been atop my list.
And then, of course, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination.
In this atmosphere, Levin’s new book, The Fractured Republic, reads like a warning. Written before “Make America Great Again” became the rallying cry of the Republican Party, it argues that both Democrats and Republicans were trapped inside a dangerous nostalgia, and tried to propose a way out. I interviewed Levin for my podcast this week (subscribe here!).
What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation about the Republican Party — the full podcast covers much more ground, including Levin’s time working for George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich, the lessons he learned in the White House, his favorite policy books, and much more.
Ezra Klein: So I want to start with an odd question: What is the Republican Party?
Yuval Levin: It’s an odd question that has to be asked now, of course. Any political party is an institution that exists to advance some vision of good and that exists to allow a coalition to cohere. A party is always both of those things.
I think the Republican Party has thought of itself more in recent decades as the first, as a vehicle for a vision of the world, a vehicle for conservatism. In reality, of course, it’s been at least as much of the latter. I think some of the problems it’s had is that its own leaders have not seen that as clearly as they might and have assumed that the Republican electorate is more of a conservative electorate than it’s been.