From Kevin Williamson at National Review, A Marxist Homecoming:

One of the political difficulties of conservatism — and here I mean American conservatism, not the imported kind — is that by its nature it does not offer much in the way of novelty, excitement, or even enthusiasm. It is a philosophy of least-bad options, necessary inconsistency, and moderate expectations. American conservatism is rooted in the values of the American Revolution and the American founding, which are largely liberal values in the classical sense, a source of some confusion to modern conservatives. American conservatism, informed by the liberal Anglo-Protestant commercial culture of our British antecedents, does not offer the romance and pageantry of Europe’s throne-and-altar rightism. It does offer an open society in which those and many other bad ideas can find adherents and be discussed freely.

American conservatives in search of novelty and excitement almost always begin by turning their backs on our ancient liberties, especially our economic liberties, and generally end up under the sway of some foreign caudillo (Franco! Pinochet! Putin! Orbán!) or some exotic fanaticism (Neo-Nationalism! Integralism! Habsburg legitimism!), or else veer off predictably into race obsession and other distasteful enthusiasms of that nature. Because the hatred of adjacent heretics is more intimate and more intense than the hatred of distant infidels, these rightists end up doing things that would be otherwise inexplicable, e.g., making common cause with the Marxists so long as doing so gets up the noses of one or two of the three remaining active neoconservatives and the president of the Libertarian Club of Knockemstiff, Ohio.

You can have the excitement, the radicalism, and the strange new respect for socialism — I’ll take boring old liberty and property rights, and the necessary means to defend them.


Modern (American) Conservatism is a hard sell. It proposes limits, accepts imperfection, avoids extravagant promises, and understands inconsistencies and tradeoffs.