The Way We Are Now—Republicans
"If only Longstreet had . . . "
There have been Republicans who were conservatives, but the Republican Party is not and never has been a force for conservatism in American life. Except for those who, in Russell Kirk’s words, “mistake the acquisitive instinct for a conservative disposition.”
From its very beginning the Republican Party was the vehicle of state capitalists. It flourished by persuading a large part of the middle class that it represented their values—patriotism, progress, and Protestant virtues. It long marketed itself as the party against reactionary "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," as the party of Progress under decent and safe control.
The South, which learned the hard way, for a long time did not fall for this delusion. Being killed and exploited concentrates the mind wonderfully. But as the South has been mainstreamed, as the War and Reconstruction have receded in memory and the Southern churches have collapsed into the Americanist heresy, more and more Southerners have enlisted in the Army of the Lord to trample out the Grapes of Wrath.
In the 1960s the Republican con game showed signs of losing its power. It was saved by an influx of despised Southerners and by cynically changing its marketing strategy to pretend to represent the issues raised and made popular by George Wallace. In a way, Southerners can hardly be blamed, since we were literally whipped with scorpions out of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is now the party of state capitalists (mostly former Republican types) AGAINST Protestant virtues, the Northern ruling classes having morally disintegrated during the 1960s and 1970s.
The Republican state capitalists, meanwhile, would never have even pretended to be "conservative" if Wallace had not forced them to, but would have continued to present themselves as the competent, decent, safe version of Progress. Indeed, with "compassionate conservatism" and the current presidential competition, they have have almost totally reverted to their old stance, which served them well for a long, long time—keeping the state capitalist regime in power by deluding the middle class with an image of progressive competence and respectability. As if Goldwater and Reagan never existed, they are all Rockefeller Republicans now. (After all, ain't that where the money is?)
Every bit of leftist legislation that has passed the U.S. Congress in the last half century has had substantial Republican support. It was the old Southern Democrats who braked radical legislation, not the Republicans. Now that the Southern Democrats have disappeared, the only obstacle to radical legislation is an extraordinary outpouring of grassroots effort, as in stopping (temporarily) the recent illegal alien amnesty bill.
The Republicanization of the South has been a catastrophic net loss to conservatism.