I became a conservative because I believed the conservative values I grew up with were the best way to bring about human flourishing for the most Americans. I still do. But in recent years it has become clear that significant parts of the conservative movement no longer share this belief (if they ever did). There is a palpable sense that not only are our values incapable of persuading a majority of Americans to support Republican politicians at the ballot box, but that the whole project of liberal democracy is doomed.
What had been (in the days of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp) an optimistic philosophy has metastasized. We are left with a right wing that is animated by despair, desperation, and an inevitable belief in American decline. We have been hearing this sort of clamoring since 2016, culminating with the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. But there was always the hope it would dissipate if or when Donald Trump left the White House.
But sadly, Trump’s exit has done little to quell the incipient thirst for authoritarianism from many on the right. Indeed, the fever seems to be getting worse.