Understanding conservatism is Corey Robin’s specialty.
His book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin — which Robin is updating for a reissue this spring — posits that the defining thread the movement that now defines the Republican Party is “the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back” — or, in other words, “Make America Great Again.”
Well, not just America.
According to Robin, conservatism — since its genesis as a response to the French Revolution — “has always been a reactionary doctrine. And specifically what it has been a reaction against are movements of disposed classes that are trying to assert some agency or power on behalf of themselves,” Robin told Daniel Denvir on a recent episode of The Dig podcast.
Conservatism’s genius, Robin argues, is that it continually presents a new defense of keeping power in the hands of those who have been blessed by birth with it.
This is how Donald Trump can both be seen as abomination of Goldwater’s great legacy by conservatives while presenting characteristics of the “alpha male/strict father” mindset that make him the most conservative ever to conservative.