The reason why conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have lost their way so badly in recent years is that they never understood, and paid scant attention to, the culture wars. In Britain, this has now led some of them to come out as warriors on the wrong side.
Conservatism is not an ideology but an attitude of mind. It involves identifying and holding onto what is most valuable and defending it against erosion or attack. In the 18th century this was embodied in the thinking of Edmund Burke, widely considered to be the philosophical godfather of conservative thought, when he defended freedom and human rights against the barbarism of the French Revolution.
In the 20th century, conservatives knew what they were defending and against whom. They were defending liberty and democracy against Soviet communism. When the Soviet Union collapsed, they assumed their fox had been shot since everyone seemed to have accepted capitalism.
What they never understood – at least, most of them – was that the left-wing war to destroy the west had not in fact ended but merely shifted its strategy. Instead of the workers seizing control of the levers of the economy, the left would now seize control of the levers of the culture – the universities, media, civil service, churches, the legal profession – and subvert them from within.
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