Is the Republican party still "conservative"?

I know this is a losing battle, and I’m not trying to call out @Enidigm specifically, but what’s going on with the Republican party isn’t “conservativism”. Margaret Sullivan makes the case that calling it conservativism normalizes radical right-wing politics. From her editorial from before the January 6 riot:

Anyway, I just needed to get in my monthly or so attempt at refuting the idea that there’s a political ideology behind Trump supporters. :)


Did you ever find your Scotsman, or is the hunt ongoing?

I think this is dead-accurate and a rhetorical attack vector I’ve used in-person with co-workers, family, neighbors, etc. Trumpism is not conservative, you can’t name anything he’s “conserving”, any traditional value or precedent, he supports. Even the tax cuts, at this point wildly fiscally irresponsible, are a creature of modern GOP extremism, having learned all the wrong lessons from the Reagan years.

Since Tom started it ;) I will again post my preferred definition of conservatism, which much better encompasses what “conservative” means right now, as well what it has meant over the ages:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.

For millenia, conservatism had no name, because no other model of polity had ever been proposed. “The king can do no wrong.” In practice, this immunity was always extended to the king’s friends, however fungible a group they might have been. …

As the core proposition of conservatism is indefensible if stated baldly, it has always been surrounded by an elaborate backwash of pseudophilosophy, amounting over time to millions of pages. All such is axiomatically dishonest and undeserving of serious scrutiny. Today, the accelerating de-education of humanity has reached a point where the market for pseudophilosophy is vanishing; it is, as The Kids Say These Days, tl;dr . All that is left is the core proposition itself — backed up, no longer by misdirection and sophistry, but by violence.

Source. Incidentally, ever since I came across this (via Brad De Long’s blog), I always assumed it was a famous quote from somewhere. But apparently it’s not. It’s just a random blog comment from 2018.

As to “What is conservatism conserving?” the answer is simply: “power, to the in group.”

Yes, from Crooked Timber, which has a number of very smart and engaged commenters. It’s certainly the clearest and best definition of conservatism I’ve ever read.

I’m not particularly sympathetic to Tom’s thesis about the difference between Trumpism and conservativism, but that Crooked Timber definition is filled with straw, and is not at all descriptive of what any U.S. commenter means when they say “conservative”. We need a “what is conservatism” thread.

Do we, though?

That’s not a definition, that’s a critique.


As for needing a “What is conservatism?” thread, I’m pretty sure we have one around here someplace.

Because it’s not a very good critique, lumping together conservatives with Bolsheviks, Kim Jong-Il, the Mafia, and Mayor Daley of the Chicago Democratic Party machine.

Heh, the Mafia is probably the quintessential conservative organization.

That’s great and all, and I’m glad you guys have figured out your own personal definitions for a word that means different things to different people. But the point still stands: when you use the term “conservative” instead of “far right” or even “Trump supporter”, you’re normalizing extremists. Language matters.


Probably we made them be extremists with our language.

As I’ve said before, I’m just using the term as the vast, vast, vast majority of people who identify as such in the USA use it.

But why call them what they want to be called when you could call them what they actually are: Fascists.

In the United States, more specifically, “white supremacy”.

I guess if it really harshes your mellow to call them conservative you could call them reactionary (and leave the conservatives part unspoken).

What conservatives say is that they want to preserve religion and traditions and individual rights

What conservatives mean is that they seek to keep the privileged privileged.

Call em conservatives, reactionaries, fascists, white supremacists, whatever. It’s a distinction without a difference.

Right? Not only are people like @HumanTon and @scottagibson normalizing radicals – I notice neither of them has addressed Margaret Sullivan’s point --they’re surrendering a perfectly cromulent word. Anyway, sorry for the derail which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but I noticed @Enidigm was using the term in multiple threads and I figured he might appreciate Sullivan’s take.

This hot take brought to you by the Language Doesn’t Matter Camp! Say whatever you want and let other people figure out what you mean!


One thing to consider – the term radical pisses them off worse than all the others combined. :)

Please, for a stupid man, define normalizing. I am serious.