[C]ompassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.
And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the "common hazards of life" through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Quite true. Why, then, do modern commentators persist in referring to modern conservatism as "conservatism"? While Krugman's statement is perversely unimpeachable -- "modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement" -- it also contains a colossally unconcealed contradiction, which is way overdue for journalistic retirement.
To posit that "conservatism" is a "deeply radical movement" is to untether oneself from intelligible language and customary comprehension. By definition, conservatism is anything but deeply radical. Indeed, authentic modern conservatism arose from Edmund Burke's revulsion of the French Revolution's butchery of political order (such as it was), cultural tradition, social institutions, and human life; that is, modern conservatism arose in reaction to modern radicalism.
Nonetheless most commentators feed conservatives' deliberate and cunning fiction: the latter are in no way, no shape, no form the intellectual legacy of true Burkeanism, yet the former happily and daily trundle them off -- as conservatives -- to glistening guillotines of trenchant denunciation. Which of course only delights the "conservative" pols, since most American voters regard their own political sensibilities as either conservative (in the original sense of the word) or leaning that way. These voters naturally if somewhat thoughtlessly identify with politicians who self-label as "conservative" (a label repeatedly confirmed by no less than the Fourth Estate); as well, these voters then interpret the commentariat's assaults on "conservative" pols and "conservatism" itself as liberally biased assaults on their own politico-philosophical identification.
So, to Mr. Krugman et al, please cease perpetuating the contradiction. Stop calling conservative pols what they are not: conservative. They are pseudoconservatives, they are reactionaries, they are radicals, and in some instances they are merely lunatics. But they are not conservative.
If authentic conservatives be left, they would be today's liberals, who struggle to conserve America's sociopolitical traditions.