After the Trump disruption, it's time to examine where conservatism came from, and where it's going.

What is American conservatism? Some say it’s an oxymoron. Others insist that it defies definition. Conservatives themselves have been fighting about it for more than a half century. And liberals tend to agree with literary critic Lionel Trilling that it’s nothing more than “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

American conservatism is hard to define. The terms American, conservatism, and American conservatism imply different things to different people: When was America founded? When the Mayflower arrived in 1620? When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776? Or when the Constitution became law in 1789?

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