What has become of conservatism?

Nick Cohen writes: You may not like conservatives. But you know where you are with them. Or, rather, you knew. Now, Trump, Brexit and the global rise of populism have created a crisis in conservatism across the west. You can tell a crisis is real when the men and women caught up in it duck hard questions. Today’s conservatives don’t want to say who they are and what they mean. They have become shifty operators who hate being pinned down. As Boris Johnson admitted, in one of his occasional moments of honesty, modern conservatives want to have their cake and eat it, too.

When it suits them they remain pragmatists, but that pose does not last for long. Everywhere you look you see conservatives sniffing the air and catching the scent of the radical right. It tempts them with the most seductive perfume in politics: the whiff of power. In Hungary, Poland, Turkey, South America and now, with Trump’s victory, North America, populists, who despise the checks and balances of liberal democracies, are taking control and giving every indication of holding on to it.

Conservatives have learned from Trump that they can break the old taboos. They can abuse women, damn whole races and religions, assault the constitutional order and repeat lie after lie without barely a pause for breath. Far from punishing them, the electorate will reward them. Trump’s victory is a dark liberation. Their suppressed thoughts, their guilty private conversations, now look like election winners. [Continue reading…]

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