You wouldn’t know it to listen to many conservatives, but the English-speaking countries are doing just fine: The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are not postapocalyptic sewers and not on their way to becoming postapocalyptic sewers. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that Canada and New Zealand are better-governed than is the United States, in many ways. Australia, too. And the United Kingdom seems to be rediscovering its self-respect. Weirdly, the same pointy-headed neo-nationalists who want to make a cult of “American Greatness” never appreciate the fact that the French, for all their faults, never, ever apologize for being French.
American conservatives have always been at their best when they speak to Americans’ aspirations. Alex P. Keaton — or, in the real world, William F. Buckley Jr. — never worried about being denounced as an “elitist.” Ambition for advancement, and the wealth and status that comes with it, was until five minutes ago part and parcel of American conservatism. That was the best message American conservatives ever had: “Being rich and happy is awesome! Here’s how you can do it, too.