In the 1950s and ’60s, libertarians, social conservatives, and anti-communists found enough common cause to create a robust new postwar conservative movement. The cobbling together of this disparate coalition, a process National Review editor Frank Meyer dubbed “fusionism,” came to reshape the Republican Party and America itself. Is fusionism making a comeback today as a broad backlash against big government gathers force and the Tea Party and the Ron Paul movement help inject libertarianism back into conservatism?
Two debates in February between Reason editors and prominent conservative commentators grappled with these questions. At Colorado’s Independence Institute, Nick Gillespie clashed with right-wing controversialist Ann Coulter over the question, “Can fiscal and social conservatives pull together in 2012?” Meanwhile, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., Matt Welch debated AEI scholar and National Review Contributing Editor Jonah Goldberg on the question, “Are libertarians part of the conservative movement?”