The American Conservative (TAC) is a bi-monthly magazine founded in 2002 and published by the American Ideas Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C., which states that it exists to promote a conservatism that opposes unchecked power in government and business; promotes the flourishing of families and communities through vibrant markets and free people; and embraces realism and restraint in foreign affairs based on America's vital national interests.
The idea of The American Conservative was that there were enough who disagreed with mainstream conservatism—libertarians, paleoconservatives, and civil libertarian conservatives, among other dissenters—to warrant such a publication. While other conservative magazines like National Review and The Weekly Standard marched more or less in lockstep with the Bush Administration, The American Conservative argued for a different course—sometimes with greater ferocity than the major political magazines on the left.
Scott McConnell served as the magazine's first editor, followed by managing editor Kara Hopkins.
Before the 2006 midterm elections, The American Conservative urged its readers to vote for Democrats, saying, "It should surprise few readers that we think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive “No” vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome."
As of 2007, Buchanan and Taki ceased to be involved with the editorial operations of The American Conservative, although Buchanan continues to contribute columns. Ron Unz was named publisher in 2007. In 2011, Wick Allison became the magazine's publisher, followed in 2013 by Jon Basil Utley, the current publisher.
In 2010, Daniel McCarthy succeeded Kara Hopkins as editor. In September 2011, the magazine introduced an editorial redesign of its print publication, and in May 2012, a redesign of its website. In October 2014, Benjamin Schwarz, the former national and literary editor of The Atlantic, was named national editor of the magazine.
In November 2016, Robert W. Merry succeeded Daniel McCarthy as editor, with Lewis McCrary and Kelley Beaucar Vlahos as Executive Editors.
The American Conservative has become one of the more dynamic spots on the political Web. Writers like Rod Dreher and Daniel Larison tend to be suspicious of bigness: big corporations, big government, a big military, concentrated power and concentrated wealth. Writers at that Web site, and at the temperamentally aligned Front Porch Republic, treasure tight communities and local bonds. They’re alert to the ways capitalism can erode community. Dispositionally, they are more Walker Percy than Pat Robertson.
At an event at the University of New Orleans in March 2017, Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance shared, “I did this interview with Rod [Dreher] at The American Conservative magazine…and then the book [Hillbilly Elegy]…exploded!”
Some notable contributors throughout the years at The American Conservative have included: Andrew Bacevich, Doug Bandow, Patrick Buchanan, Rod Dreher, Leon Hadar, Peter Hitchens, Samuel P. Huntington, William S. Lind, John Mearsheimer, Rand Paul, Mark Perry, Steve Sailer, and Jim Webb.