In introducing his new book, "Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America," Paul Gottfried identifies a fundamental divide between neoconservatives and the traditional right. The divide is over the question: What is this nation, America?
Straussians, writes Gottfried, "wish to present the construction of government as an open-ended rationalist process. All children of the Enlightenment, once properly instructed, should be able to carry out this ... task."
For traditional conservatives, before the nation is born, "ethnic and cultural preconditions" must exist. All "successful constitutional orders," he writes, "are the expressions of already formed nations and cultures."