Charles Coulombe does a great job of defining the indefinable.
The point in this ancient and obscure history is that even with the best will in the world (and extremely educated people), “Conservatism” in America has always been well-nigh impossible to define, much less organize. Attempts to do so have rarely succeeded in the long run. After World War II, Russel Kirk attempted to do so with considerably more success than Collins (reflecting his own far greater depth and intellect). But this mixture, too, was unsteady; reaching its apogee with the election of Reagan, it blew apart afterwards with the fall of communism and had little effect in stopping the decay of American society.
A major part of the problem is that America herself lacks definition. Speakers on all sides of political spectrum will say such things as “America is more an idea than a country.” But that idea is sufficiently tenuous for players as diverse as the German American Bund and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to wrap themselves in it. In this writer’s opinion, what is needed is, first, a love of the country as it actually is, historical warts and all: its diverse peoples and customs and its real contributions to humanity—from cocktails to the Great American Songbook and the polio vaccine.
For the Catholic, however, this is only the beginning. At heart, the woes of these United States are not political but cultural—that is to say, religious. The best thing we can do about them is not to argue about whether Hamilton or Jefferson was “more American” but to strive our hardest to evangelize this country. A Catholic America would be truly something worth conserving.
Funny, but the definitions of “American” and “America” were crystal clear in the early days of the Old Republic. What slipped? I suppose it was yet another of the endless failings of these conservatives to conserve anything, even their own identity. It’s no wonder that they couldn’t conserve handshaking and toilet paper. A better goal would be the rebuilding of a Catholic or other Christian America. The way to do that is, after the dust settles on the current hoax, to reinstitute the traditional. One tradition we do not need is that of the non-ideology of conservatism. Take the bow ties and settle over in New Amerika or somewhere.