Excellent post from commenter Brian, a fine new writer, about the meaning of US conservatism. No conservative will believe this but that’s a pretty good definition of it. There’s also a fake populist angle to it. I know a lot of Republicans who insist that this ultra-right politics of the bosses, an ultra-anti-worker philosophy, is good for workers! They have all sorts of crazy reasons why this is true, mostly boiling down to Supply Side Economics, which has been endlessly proven to be a lie in praxis if not in theory.
There’s also a social side to it. Racism, sexism, and even transphobia. I’m no tranny fan either, but I will grant them basic civil rights. Trump won’t even do that. And that’s bigotry all right. Trump is also said to have been bad for gays, though I can’t single anything out. There are the other social issues. The continuous genuflecting to Christianity, especially in the ability to discriminate and lately, to spread deadly viruses at will. The abortion issue, the classic wedge issue. The guns issue. The Democrats are coming to take your guns.
The crime issue.
Novocostello: I don’t really understand US conservatism, what exactly is it trying to conserve? Is it just classical liberalism mixed with some Northwestern European type of ethnocentrism/racism?
Brian: US conservatism is about conserving and enhancing the status of those already high up the ladder and mostly those at the very top. It’s really not so much about conserving their position as it is about increasing their wealth and power while decreasing the wealth and power of the rest of society.
It’s not just disparities in wealth and power that US conservatives want to increase but disparities in what we might call “cultural standing” or social perception. So they want most people to be increasingly looked down on and to be made to feel crummy about their lives while getting ordinary people to look at those up top as superhuman and godlike.
“Traditional” Burkean conservatism was about accepting the system as is on the assumption that it developed this way for reasons we might not understand and that altering it too much too quickly could be very dangerous while also allowing for slow change to address the needs of the masses.
So there was a progressive leaning in that kind of conservatism, but it was deliberately meant to be slow progress. And this type of traditional conservatism was always largely just a way for those at the affluent to keep others in their place despite its theoretical grounding which many adherents probably didn’t care much about. However, those conservatives were more willing to yield and compromise.
Today’s American conservatism, which has become the mainstream since Reagan, aims not only to preserve privilege and inequality but rather to exacerbate them. What’s called “conservatism” in the US is a form of reactionary politics. Or you can think of it as a kind of radical conservatism: a radicalism from above instead of from below.