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Cass R. Sunstein

A Back-to-Basics Primer for Conservatives

If Biden wins, progressives will feel emboldened. Here’s what they should watch out for.

Beware of unintended consequences.

Beware of unintended consequences.

Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A well-functioning democracy requires at least two parties, armed with different ideas and approaches. If Republicans lose the White House to Democratic nominee Joe Biden, what ideas and approaches should they champion? 

Many Republicans might want to go back to basics and recover some of the foundations of conservative thought, as laid out by such thinkers as Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott and Russell Kirk. They might not be eager to seek advice from anyone who is not a trusted conservative. But one of the most clarifying accounts of the conservative tradition comes from a remarkable book, “The Rhetoric of Reaction,” written by the economist Albert Hirschman in 1991.