What’s Conservatism Today?

I’m not sure what conservativism means here anymore. Back in the day, we knew what it meant. It meant old gentlemen in big country houses who enjoyed yachting or riding or being allowed to keep the social order in place. There was something wonderful about it. In America, where everyone is considered equal, the social order was based on financial, political or educational means rather than on inherited titles or landed estates. Sure there was a little bit of tradition in manners and exclusivity that the moneyed folks enjoyed, and of which the upper middle classes got a taste. Yet for the most part conservatives in the States were men who protected their wealth and supported big business.

But today I have to qualify every use of the word “conservative” with the addition of an adjective. I have to say fiscal conservative or religious conservative so that what I’m saying isn’t associated with America’s mass of (large-c) Conservatives. These so-called Conservatives are the middle class folks from the 1970s and 1980s who joined the politics of Cdr. Richard Nixon and Sir Ronald Reagan. To them, conservatism seems to be synonymous with military obedience, with nationalism, with Christian fundamentalism, with racial domination and conformity to Anglo-American culture. For me, that all seems a little low brow. I liked it better when it was just about money and property.