In this article, I argue that American conservatism has become an “ism” by dint of the fact that conservatism has always been in a certain sense defined by what it has opposed. It has taken its cue from various forms of progressivism – liberalism, libertarianism, capitalism, communism, cosmopolitanism – and has tended to occupy space that has been vacated by a left-ward moving opponent. Thus, even where conservatism has remained more “conservative” than its opponent on the Left, over time (particularly in the U.S.) it has become more liberal.
I implicitly take to task the current stance of many “conservatives” who lay the blame of our current woes at the feet of “Progressivism” (i.e., Glenn Beck and his smarter West Coast Straussian counterparts). By way of a backdrop, I’ve argued elsewhere that there is far less difference between the stance of conservative liberals (Lockeans) and Progressives than they might suppose. In the article itself, I note that critics of Progressivism more often than not actually have ended up supporting Progressive positions, among them an emphasis upon Nation over locality (defined by the Lockean philosophy of the Declaration), a dedication to spreading democracy (and free markets) throughout the world (hence, a similarly homogenizing spirit as one finds in Progressivism), a devotion to progress (now defined as scientific progress, albeit stopping only short of scientific progress of human nature itself), and an embrace of civil religion (I note that the “Pledge of Allegiance” was originally written by Progressives in order to solidify national devotion to the abstract idea of America).
I conclude by suggesting that modern conservatism has betrayed what should be its fundamentally Augustinian devotions, and has instead embraced the twin heresies of Manicheanism and Gnosticism.