Not the Party of Jefferson

Here's how John Fonte, in a review of Francis Fukuyama's America at the Crossroads for National Review, describes a group he calls "Reagan internationalists":

This coalition combines a strong baseline Jacksonian nationalism ("Don't tread on me") with strands of Wilsonianism (democracy matters), Hamiltonianism (promotion of free trade), and realism (power politics) — to use the classic taxonomy formulated by Walter Russell Mead. Fukuyama appears to have a visceral distaste for the Jacksonian tradition, which he mischaracterizes as "isolationist"; Mead says it's the Jeffersonians, not the Jacksonians, who are isolatonists and idenitifies Reagan himself as a Jacksonian figure who successfully combined a number of complementary American traditions."

One could make the claim, with some justice I think, that Reagan's actual foreign policy had some faint traces of Jeffersonianism, but one probably can't go much further than that. And Fonte is surley right to say that the Reaganite coalition — which remains the foreign-policy center of gravity for conservatives — draws from all of America's diplomatic traditions except the Jeffersonian.

Jeffersonian conservatives are not an impossibility — George Kennan was one, John Lukacs is another — but the conservative movement does a very thorough job of excluding them. That's not necessarily the Jeffersonians' loss.


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