From E. J. Dionne, a fine abstract of where we were, how we got there and, regrettably, where we are now.
In the period when democracy planted deep roots in Western Europe and was thriving in the United States, conservative parties were led by figures such as Dwight Eisenhower in the United States, Harold Macmillan in Britain, Konrad Adenauer in West Germany and Charles de Gaulle in France.
All of them understood from the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and a destructive world war that moderation is conservatism’s best impulse and that market economies require a social dimension. Capitalism could not work absent an active government that fostered a degree of economic equality and security….
Alas, except for a small, honorable cadre of writers and think-tankers, the American right has taken itself out of the game. Our politics will remain broken as long as conservatism confines its energies to cutting taxes and defending a reckless president at all costs. (Emphasis in bold, mine.]
Dionne stresses historical perspective as a sine qua non of responsible modern governance, which one detects as altogether lacking in almost any discussion with a modern conservative.
Wherefore government's financial regulations, its Keynesian interventions in the economy, its weaving of safety nets, its provisions of transfer payments and so on? To the contemporary right, it seems that government's presence in these ways and many others came simply out of the blue (excuse the pun); that there were no ruinous causations of each — no capitalist overexuberance, no resulting collapses of our economic system, no further destabilizations through indifferent government, etc.
To the right, more active government was a needless development plotted by malevolent foreign influences and alien ideologies. History, its consequences, its causes and effects? Pshaw. The New Deal, the Great Society and lesser governmental programs were merely what the right perceives, out of historical ignorance, as sort of idiopathic projects imposed by self-serving bureaucrats and demagogic pols.
Many a right winger claims to wonder why more conservatives don't haunt the halls of university history departments. The answer is obvious. No one who has actually studied American history could come away with such a shallow, right-wing grasp of America's past — and its profoundly justified reasons for "creeping socialism."