Because conservatism as normally understood is not possible in America today. Conservatism stands for loyalty to what is settled. It presumes that one belongs to a culture and civilization that is basically well-founded and coherent, so that it will return to type if a few errors are debunked and excesses suppressed.
None of that makes sense today. All authoritative American institutions are left-liberal in their principles. As such, they are profoundly at odds with the implicit habitual goods fostered by tradition and with any orientation toward the transcendent. The protection of those things must be at the heart of any orientation calling itself conservative. As a result, an American who wishes to be conservative must put himself radically at odds with the authoritative public institutions of his country. By doing so, he stops being anything that can be recognized as conservative.
America has good qualities, such as its traditions of localism, voluntary cooperation, and limited government. It has other good qualities simply because it is an enduring society. Any society would simply fall apart unless its members lived uprightly in most ways, raised the next generation adequately, and defended the social order against attack. Such things require restraint, sacrifice and loyalty, and thus implicit orientation toward goods that transcend particular desires and are capable of sustaining human life.
So there are always grounds for being conservative in some general sense. Still, something more is needed for a political position than praising the goods present in everyday life in every society. One also needs leading principles to guide attitudes and social practices. And the principles needed today must be radical, because they must be in sharp opposition to the leading principles of public life.
What we need are principles that go deeper and say more than simply announcing that they are “conservative” in some generic sense. They must catch hold of something that is sufficiently fundamental and all-encompassing to ground and provide a standard for social and political life. They must therefore be religious. It is the lack of such principles that has made it impossible for conservatives effectively to contest liberalism.
Further, the principles we need must be sufficiently concrete to give answers, and sufficiently anchored in experience to avoid utopian fanaticism. That means they must be principles supported by some particular political and religious tradition. At least for European man, it’s hard to see what that tradition could be other than the central religious and moral tradition of the West, Catholicism.
If what I have said is right, it is better to be forthright about it so that the matter can be discussed, than to make use of expressions like “the American Way” or “Western Civilization” that mean everything and nothing. At Turnabout we will try to speak as clearly as possible, discuss the real issues of our time, and see where it all leads. Anyone interested is welcome to join.