Now, we face a new challenge on the sanctity of the American creed from a different direction. This time, from the right. It comes first from blurring the distinctions between nationalism as actually practiced and the uniqueness of American exceptionalism. Then it goes on to raise the specter of the nation-state as being an idea—if not the central idea—to American conservatism. That’s no different than what a continental European conservative probably would say about their traditions.
Frankly, I don’t get this at all. American conservatives are skeptical of the government. They’re skeptical of the nation-state. That’s what makes us conservatives. So why elevate the concept of the nation-state that is so foreign to the American conservative tradition?
I fear the answer may have to do with the deeper philosophical transformation that is going on inside some conservative political circles. It is now becoming fashionable for some conservatives to criticize capitalism and the free market. Some are even arguing that there are now no limiting principles to what the state and the government can or should do in the name of their political agenda.
This used to be called “big government” conservatism. It was seen then as a liberal proposition, and it still is, in my view. It shares a troubling principle with modern progressivism. Deep down, having the government rather than the people make important decisions about their lives is, in principle, no different than a progressive arguing for the need for government to end poverty and eliminate inequality.