These days, some American conservatives find themselves in sympathy with the world’s staunchest anti-American leaders, precisely because those leaders have raised the challenge to American liberalism. In 2013, Putin warned that the “Euro-Atlantic countries” were “rejecting their roots,” which included the “Christian values” that were the “basis of Western civilization.” They were “denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious, and even sexual.” Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan responded by calling Putin the voice of “conservatives, traditionalists and nationalists of all continents and countries” who were standing up against “the cultural and ideological imperialism of . . . a decadent West.”

The conservative thinker and writer Christopher Caldwell recently observed that the Russian leader is a “hero to populist conservatives around the world” because he refuses to submit to the U.S.-dominated liberal world order. If the polls are to be believed, the number of favorable views of Putin has grown among Trump supporters. They are not simply following their leader. As the political scientist M. Steven Fish observes, Putin has positioned himself as the leader of the world’s “socially and culturally conservative” common folk against “international liberal democracy.” Orban in Hungary, the self-proclaimed leader of “illiberalism” within the democratic world, is another hero to some conservatives. Caldwell suggests that the avowedly anti-liberal Christian democracy that Orban is trying to create in Hungary is the sort of democracy that “prevailed in the United States 60 years ago,” presumably before the courts began imposing liberal values and expanding the rights of minority groups.

Political theorist Marc Plattner argues that the gravest threat to liberal democracy today is that the “mainstream center-right parties” of the liberal democratic world are being “captured by tendencies that are indifferent or even hostile to liberal democracy.” He does not mention the United States, but the phenomenon he describes is clearly present among American conservatives, and not just among the “alt-right.”