Like Applebaum, I’m astonished to see erstwhile Cold Warriors abase themselves before Vladimir Putin. But I think she’s working from a mistaken premise about what once constituted conservatism. Liberal democracy per se was never the animating passion of the trans-Atlantic right — anti-Communism was. When the threat of Communist expansion disappeared, so did most of the right’s commitment to a set of values that, it’s now evident, were purely instrumental…

There were always some American conservatives who really were in it for laissez-faire economics. But it’s now clear that those conservatives were wrong about their movement’s animating passion. So too with those on the center-right who thought their comrades were opposed to authoritarianism on principle.

Back when the idea of a President Trump still seemed an absurdist impossibility, the political theorist Corey Robin wrote, in his 2011 book “The Reactionary Mind,” about the recurring argument that conservatism had slipped its sober mooring to become populist and radical.