Virtual Plenary Session: The Changing Character of the American Right

The American conservative movement has gone through many transitions in the period since 1980, growing in intellectual confidence, organizational outreach and electoral success. Its growth into a powerful feature of the US political scene has not always been in harmony with the priorities of the Republican Party which was the political beneficiary of the resurgent conservatism.

These tensions and divisions (both within the conservative movement and between the wider movement and the Republican Party) have remained visible and critics within Republican ranks have recently become more vocal. Nevertheless, despite the controversies surrounding the Trump presidency in the run-up to the 2020 elections, the Republican Party remains broadly identified with Donald Trump’s distinctive and populist brand of politics.

In this, the first of a series of virtual and live meetings running until 2021, we seek to explore in depth the character of the political ideas and policy positions of the American right as it enters the third decade of the twenty-first century and to understand its impact on government, the economy, and society in the United States.

In this first plenary session Larry Jacobs, David Brady and Frank Fukuyama explore different aspects of the current political scene.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is via Eventbrite.


5pm  Welcome and Introduction: Professor Adam Smith, Professor Desmond King, Professor Bruce Cain, Professor Gillian Peele, Professor Joel Aberbach

5.15pm  Professor Larry Jacobs, “The Origins of American Polarization and Dysfunction: the Rise of the Direct primary and the Failure to Heed Progressive Opposition”

5.40pm  Professor David Brady, “Populism in the Electorate: Explaining the Populist Vote”

6pm  Professor Francis Fukuyama, “Populism and Identity”

6.20pm  Open discussion (chaired by Desmond King and Gillian Peele)


Lawrence R. Jacobs is McKnight President Chair in Public Affairs, the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey School and the Department of Political Science in the University of Minnesota. His most recent books include, co-authored with Desmond King, Fed Power: How Finance Wins (OUP: 2016). He is currently writing a book entitled Defending America’s Democracy: Battles over the Form of Political Representation.

David W. Brady is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; and professor of political science in Stanford University's School of Humanities and Sciences. Among his previous books is Revolving Gridlock: Politics and Policy from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, co-authored with Craig Volden (Westview, 2005) and, co-authored with Peitro Nivola, Red and Blue Nation? Characteristics and Consequences of America’s Polarized Politics (2 vols., Brookings 2006-8).

Francis Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI)and Mosbacher Director of FSI's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). He is the author of many books including Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018).


Adam Smith is Edward Orsborn Professor of American Politics and Political History in the University of Oxford and Director of the Rothermere American Institute.

Bruce E. Cain is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Stanford and Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. His many works include Democracy More or Less (CUP, 2015).

Joel D. Aberbach is Distinguished Research Professor and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His works include Understanding American Conservatism (Routledge 2017 ) and, co-edited with Gillian Peele, Crisis of Conservatism: The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement and American Politics After Bush (OUP, 2011).

Desmond King is Andrew Mellon Professor of American Government in the University of Oxford. He is the author, with Lawrence Jacobs of Fed Power: How Finance Wins (OUP, 2016).

Gillian Peele is an Emeritus Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall Oxford and the author of many works on American and British conservatism including, co-authored with Joel Aberbach, Crisis of Conservatism (OUP, 2011).