E.J. Dionne writes that there are two kinds of conservatism -- the "tweedy" kind and the extreme kind. Tweedy conservatism
is rooted in an affection for a particular place and its way of life. This conservatism is not always opposed to reform since reforms are often required to preserve the arrangements its exponents revere. Conservatism’s positive function is to warn against measures designed to fix things that are wrong, but whose main effects are to undermine institutions that are widely valued. Sometimes, seemingly sensible changes can unintentionally cause new problems.
Tweedy conservatism was Edmund Burke's conservatism. But Burke's vision has been buried by another kind of conservatism, which Dionne argues isn't conservtism at all. It's extremism, plain and simple:
The tweedy sort of conservatism has been giving ground to the extremists who want not simply to defeat their adversaries but to crush them; who traffic in conspiracy theories rather than in respect for facts and history; and who are willing to destroy the very institutions they claim to be trying to save. This has happened before (as when the white South’s displaced leadership backed the Ku Klux Klan to end Reconstruction after the Civil War), and we are seeing it anew in the age of President Trump.
That extremism was on full display at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference:
Before Trump, it would have been shocking to see Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a leader of the French neo-fascist National Front, appear at the same event with traditional conservatives like Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex, and also with the president of the United States. But thanks to Trump, European-style ethno-nationalism has become so much a part of the movement that her visit seemed almost natural.
And the head of the NRA, Wayne Lapierre, brought the crowd to their feet:
Shamefully, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s top gun who is increasingly becoming America’s extremist in chief, showed few signs of being moved by the slaughter of high school students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. On the contrary, he had the impudence to say that those who think it’s time for some modest reforms in our weapons statutes were “saboteurs” and “socialists” using the deaths of young people to forward a dangerous agenda.
“If they seize power, if these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate — and God forbid, they get the White House again — our American freedoms could be lost and our country could be changed forever.”
Stephen Harper called the same extremism conservatism. And it is currently on display in Ontario's so called Progressive Conservative Party.
But Trump, Harper and the Ontario PC's leadership hopefuls are all selling snake oil. That should be patently obvious.