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above: Former U.S. President George W. Bush receives a hug from U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama as they attend the opening ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Sept. 24, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (ZACH GIBSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Society & Culture

Conservatism Has Conserved Nothing

Conservatism has not conserved anything. This claim may appear ridiculous to those plagued by unwavering faith in the Republican Party and the conservative movement. After all, is it not conservatism that is holding the line against the left’s tyrannical agenda?

To those in the know, however, the charge that conservatism has conserved nothing is so self-evident that it has become something of a cliché, a veritable mantra recited with such frequency that it’s more likely to evoke eye rolls than enlightenment. Nevertheless, clichés often convey deep, fundamental truths, and few clichés on the right ring truer than this one.

The history of conservatism is one of toothless opposition to whatever form of anti-civilizational insanity the left happens to be promoting at a particular point in time. Established figures on the right, be they politicians or pundits, are wont to publicly denounce the left, only to later capitulate to, or adopt outright, the other side’s positions.

Those on the right who refuse to capitulate are defamed, unpersoned, and blackballed by the combined forces of the establishment—“conservatives” included—thus further hampering the instances when conservatism truly does propose some opposition to the left. The message is clear: Get with the times or face the consequences.

The practice of the right ceding cultural, political, and moral ground to its ostensible...

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