The terms liberal and conservative are pretty familiar in contemporary America, and most people would claim to know exactly what they mean. However, when they use the terms, they more likely mean their perceptions of the contemporary Democratic and Republican parties. And, now the association of the word conservative with the Republicans is becoming problematic. In fact, the politics of the past twenty years, and certainly the politics of the past five have revealed that conservative does not mean Republican, as most people calling themselves Republican are decidedly not conservative. The expected vote by the GOP to remove Liz Cheney from her leadership position is only the most recent and obvious manifestation of the philosophical and ethical mess in the party of Reagan and Goldwater.
To even begin to understand what is meant by the term "conservative," and why Republicans are not it, we should look to the origins of the idea from the European neo-classical era, as well as its more recent American manifestation. The source for American conservatism has to begin with Russell Kirk, whose The Conservative Mind in 1953 clarified the beliefs, which are distinctly different from policy positions, legal issues, constitutional norms, and campaign platforms. In a recent piece for the Imaginative Conservative, history professor and scholar Bradley Birzer explored the significance of "Russell Kirk Reconsidered," a most insightful and apt piece for the troubled GOP.